Mark Kozelek ‎– The Finally LP (Caldo Verde Records/2008)

25 Oct

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As the exec and main signee of Caldo Verde Records, Mark Kozelek can release pretty much whatever he wants. This year alone has seen a full-length by his band Sun Kil Moon, which was packaged with a bonus disc of alternate takes; an LP of live and alternate takes that accompanied the U.S. publication of his book of lyrics; a live EP that came free with purchase at his online store; and finally a covers album. Rather than flood the market or dilute the quality of his output, these releases suggest Kozelek tinkers with his own and others’ compositions continuously. In this regard, he’s certainly no stranger to the covers album: His first solo release was 2000’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Singer, which included songs by AC/DC and John Denver, and he has since released full-lengths fully devoted to AC/DC and Modest Mouse. ButThe Finally LP is something a bit different even for him: a record of lovely instrumentals and covers of tracks from tribute and benefit albums.Finally may be LP length but it lacks an album’s cohesiveness. There’s no big statement here, at least not like there was with April, his second album with Sun Kil Moon. However, the looseness of the tracklist allows him to indulge some punishing metal riffs and howling emo madman vocals. Yeah, right. Kozelek is the king of somber and of course gives these covers his signature reading: slow, melancholy, full of stoic vocals and steady, shimmery guitar. This solemn take doesn’t work against the LP, but in its favor. The Finally LP is Kozelek’s own tribute of sorts, a nod to his array of idols and influences.The title comes from a song by folk singer Kath Bloom, who has experienced a resurgence of sorts in the past two years. Kozelek covered the song for Loving Takes Its Course: A Tribute to the Songs of Kath Bloom, out next year on her Australian label, Chapter Music. He gives it a tension that wasn’t present in the original: Bloom’s version was as much a valedictory as the title suggests, but for Kozelek, there are no promises in catharsis and no conclusion in the song. Such dourness, while not unexpected, has always threatened to become Kozelek’s default mode, but here his curiously pessimistic interpretation sounds raw and wounded, as if he hasn’t yet shaken off the darkness of whatever is finally coming to and end. His ruminative reading of « New Partner », from the 2006 comp I Am a Cold Rock, I Am Dull Grass: A Tribute to Will Oldham, develops that theme and storyline, creating an intriguing diptych about loss and renewal.He’s less successful with his cover of Stephen Sondheim’s « Send in the Clowns », off the charity comp Musicians for Minneapolis: 57 Songs for the I-35 Bridge Disaster Relief Fund. Kozelek grafts an effective descending acoustic riff onto the chorus and adds a slight lilt to the melody, but it’s still « Send in the Clowns ». Low’s « Lazy » fares better, as Kozelek’s voice cracks just enough to convey a strong sense of yearning. His delivery lends added gravity to « My Friend Bob », by Dom Leone (not Pitchfork’s Dominique Leone, but the late songwriter for Ed’s Redeeming Qualities), although his cover of AC/DC’s « If You Want Blood », recorded for Lisbon radio, isn’t appreciably different from the version that appeared on What’s Next to the Moon. There’s a hodgepodge quality to The Finally LP, but like his recent EPs, bonus discs, and live collections, it proves another essential non-essential.(Caldo Verde Records)

 

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