Sun Kil Moon - Tiny Cities
Reviewed by Simon on 3rd March 2006
What a glorious proposition this album is; eleven classic tracks from the Modest Mouse back catalogue compiled and covered by sadcore / slowcore legend Mark Kozelek and his most recent band Sun Kil Moon. Kozelek, previously of Red House Painters and solo fame, has long had a knack and reputation of producing completely reworked cover versions of implausible tracks so a complete album of covers by one band close to his heart isn’t too surprising. After all, he’s released a solo collection of AC/DC songs and organised a tribute compilation for John Denver in the past.
Possibly this is his most ambition covers work to date though, taking the complex multi-layered many instrumented works of Modest Mouse and stripping them down to lovely acoustic little stories and ballads. In fairness this bears far more resemblance to a Mark Kozelek solo album with session musicians than it does to a Sun Kil Moon or Red House Painters album as it’s stripped down to a ridiculous degree in places - simple strumming and gorgeous vocals are the order of the day here.
At only half an hour long the album packs a surprisingly large emotional punch as Kozelek’s forlorn and meandering take on the previously short and snappy vocals revolutionises the tracks into miniature heart tugging behemoths. Miniature isn’t a word you could usually associate with works masterminded by Kozelek (his songs often run to nine minutes) but here everything is kept to a minimum length, almost like little outtakes from a radio session in fully mastered quality.
Although this is the sort of album which will undoubtedly take most listeners a few plays before they fully appreciate it, the standout tracks are easy to spot right away. Space Travel Is Boring is a beautifully depressing take of being homesick which fits the voice of its new artist more than it’s creator. Towards the end of the album the pace really picks up with the more interesting tracks coming think and fast. Convenient Parking is a tuneful 120 second blast through the original, Trucker’s Atlas tells a tale of a long journey with sublime lyrical poise (credit is due to the original artist here) and Ocean Breathes Salty rounds off this outing by lending itself perfectly to Kozelek’s hauntingly note perfect vocals and unbelievably sublime arrangement skills.
It’d be easy to dismiss a half hour acoustic jaunt solely through cover versions as a novelty or an exercise in self-indulgence on the part of the artist, but anybody willing to spare the time to give this a listen will instantly take those thought back. It’s not just a collection of covers; it’s both a magnificent tribute to Modest Mouse and a complete reworking of the originals - a must for fans of both artists and most people in between.
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