Ohio’s Mark Kozelek might be one of the best living examples of an aging songwriter growing artistically, instead of growing stale.

Since folding his first band, Red House Painters, in 2001, Mark has been releasing albums under his own name and under the moniker of Sun Kil Moon. On his last two albums, Benji and Universal Themes, he’s been breaking down traditional song structures, and innovating what can be done with stacked vocals during recording to make simple songs sound more interesting. He’s also gravitated towards writing lyrics about being an aging musician on the road. The new songs are so intensely personal they come off as humorously mundane and unedited diary entries about chipping teeth on hard tack bread or missing his mom. 3 or 4 of the songs on his latest album are about his fondness for the company of cats and close friends. We asked a few local songwriters to pick their favourite of these.

Birds of Film

“Somehow it works and fits and flows, which seems like quite the feat for these lyrics that string on and on. I like when the song pivots half way through to a short interlude that’s like a winding staircase and then back to the rolling coastline verses and sort-of-choruses. It takes you further along as the vocals thicken and harmonize and finally you’re left, not sure if you want to find your way back.” – Kat McLevey

“This was my first time listening to Sun Kil Moon and I wasn’t overly impressed. My favorite of the three would be “Birds of Film.” I thought the bard-esque guitars fit well with the storytelling nature of Mark Kozelek’s vocal delivery/content.” – Marcus McLaughlin (Bleu)

Little Rascals

“All these songs encapsulate artist catharsis so well. When Mark Kozelek writes from experience, he doesn’t drench it in some half-baked metaphor; he means it. These songs are a collection of journal pages brought to life through loose structure, a raspy and earnest voice, and sparse instrumentals. While all three songs are framed as long narratives, they exhibit a staggering variety of subject. There’s no singular plot, no necessary essence to either; that’s the role the music plays. Out of the three, Little Rascals stands out. The form lends itself to the introspective narrative form. The long diatribes are coupled with an ambient design section mired with odd minor chords. This dichotomy breaks up the ramblings with a purposeful reflection. It’s that therapeutic hallucinogen trip, that glass of whiskey at the end of the day, the morning meditation before you jump into your routine. Kozelek knows he has a lot to say, but he also knows that sometimes you’ll feel better if you say nothing at all. It’s the ambivert dilemma: once you’ve had your fill of the attention, you need to be alone. But the cycle continues, and the karmic equation must be balanced. Thematically, it’s so fitting. Both feel good, but that doesn’t mean that they have to be the same.” – Brad Pretty (Fred’s Records / Lady Brett Ashley)

This Is My First Day and I’m Indian and I work in a Gas Station

“Mark Kozelek could never be accused of holding back details in lyrics, but “This is My First Day and I’m Indian And I Work at a Gas Station” sees him going full confessional to a degree that would make a Priest protest: ‘Too much info Mark, too much!’ But it’s hypnotic, it’s humanistic, and taps on your wrist like a stranger saying ‘hey guess what person I don’t know, here is my entire life’: first you’re overwhelmed by the forwardness of their lifetime abridgment but leave glowing, grateful for such an unexpected intimacy.” – Scott Royle