To understand my addiction to Mark Kozelek, we have to go back to art college, 1998 Minneapolis, when I was in a terrible relationship with the wrong girl…
I had just met a fellow student (and the woman who would become my wife), who took me in and let me stay in her studio apartment. Her old roommate had left in a huff, with all of her cats, and it was just us. Life went from deplorable to perfect in a matter of days, and there we were, alone and happy.
When we finally moved from that studio apartment, out to Silver Lake, Los Angeles, we accidentally took a box that my wife’s old roommate had left behind. It wouldn’t be for another nine months before I looked in that box and found an old Canon 35mm still camera…and a series of CD’s with beautifully sparse photographs on the covers. I was intrigued, but for some reason I put them all back inside that box.
It wouldn’t be for another two-and-a-half years, however, before I ever put those CD’s in the player. In between that time, I had left a dot com start-up in LA, tried my hand at owning my own company in San Francisco (and failing), and moved back to Chicago to work for a motion graphics company. We were low on cash, and living with my wife’s parents, when I decided to open that box again.
Red House Painters – Mp3
I remember the day clearly; I was laying in bed, reading Danielewski’s debut novel, “House of Leaves,” and put all five of the CDs into my multi-disc changer. I hit shuffle (I never hit shuffle), and the songs began to play. And I fell in love. Night after night, I just left it on shuffle. The songs bled from one album to the next, indiscernibly so, and for weeks I would enjoy the songs each one as if it were the first time I had heard it.
So, after a long, fleeting acquaintance with Mark Kozelek (nearly four years), his songs had finally connected with me on a nearly spiritual level. The more I listened, the more eerie this connection became. Not only was the music itself the perfect depiction of who I was at the time (and still am, to a large degree) but the lyrics, once I started to listen, nearly tracked my entire life’s story.
He sang about family gatherings in the Midwest; about Silver Lake, and LA in general; about a girl who drew him pictures; about a park named after my wife’s grandmother (and now my daughter); he even wrote a song for his cat (remember my wife’s roommate?). This was me, a living narrative of excerpts from Kozelek verses. A part of me existed in his words… and now his words live inside me.
Mark Kozelek (Solo) – Mp3
Since that night in bed with my book and the songs on shuffle, I’ve followed his every move. I’ve followed the delayed release of Old Ramon; his split from 4AD; the solo records in-between; the forming of Sun Kil Moon; the importance of “Carry Me Ohio,” as one of the greatest songs ever made. I’ve seen him four times in concert, and I’ll continue to follow his work and watch his shows until he stops making music.
Sun Kil Moon – Mp3
I don’t think I need to sit here and explain the sleepy style of music Mark Kozelek makes, or the skillful guitar work, the exquisitely simple and poetic lyrics, the perfectly sparse vocal deliveries, none of it. For if you have read this far, you’ll surely feel some obligation to discover him for yourself.
p.s. The album covers here are, as far as I know, a complete catalog of all of Kozelek’s official releases (not including any compilations).