Mark Kozelek

Mark Kozelek

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Mark Kozelek Review

by Paul Simpson

Mark Kozelek recorded his self-titled 2018 full-length primarily at hotel rooms in his home city of San Francisco. Accompanied by an engineer, he looped and layered guitar parts and came up with the bulk of the lyrics on the spot. The tone is set by opener "This Is My Town," which details his experiences wandering around town, going out for dim sum, novels he's read, and how he can pick up any guitar and feel comfortable playing it -- pretty typical of the lyrical content for much of his work during the 2010s. During the course of the album, he continues discussing the comforts of home as well as the loneliness of being on tour and being apart from his girlfriend. He spends very little time socializing with other people, but when he does, it usually makes for some interesting stories. "My Love for You Is Undying" recalls an awkward encounter with a fan who claims that she's listened to Kozelek's music more than she's slept, and another with a bookstore clerk who claimed to be a huge fan but was then unnecessarily rude to him. He manages to balance absurd humor with self-deprecation on songs like "Weed Whacker," where a barista doesn't realize he's talking to Kozelek while a Sun Kil Moon album is playing in the background, and Kozelek later tells someone that he just makes music for the streaming services. There's also the ever self-referential, introspective "The Mark Kozelek Museum," which suggests that Ariel Pink would've been as famous as David Bowie if he was around in 1975, then somehow drifts into a multi-tracked chant of the word "diarrhea." On "666 Post," his loneliness leads to dementia, leading him to imagine having unusual pets and Satan being his neighbor. Much more relaxed is the unhurried "The Banjo Song," which does not contain any banjos, but a soothing back-and-forth nylon-string guitar pattern, atop which Kozelek lists his comfort movies and favorite possessions. As on this song, the album's guitar work is typically pretty and atmospheric, sometimes switching into darker chords for certain verses, but generally maintaining a light, nostalgic tone. The only guest musician is Steve Shelley, who plays drums on "Sublime," which of course mentions the fact that Brad Nowell died in San Francisco, not far from where Kozelek lives. Mark Kozelek is as long and rambling as one would expect from the singer/songwriter, but his mixture of poignancy, humanity, and levity continues to make his music worth hearing.

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