Mark Kozelek has always been something of a diarist in his songwriting; the very first Red House Painters album included "Michael," a touching song about a childhood friend gone wild and gone missing. But on this sixth Sun Kil Moon album, he takes this impulse into directions of therapy, elegy and unrefined straight reporting. Love songs for both of his parents and odes to oddly specific and similar deaths of family members sit next to broader topics such as the Newtown killings and the death of serial killer Richard Ramirez.
What connects everything is a steady stream of documentary details and recollections that spring from confronting mortality. The admittedly self-indulgent and occasionally unvarnished approach to lyrics is balanced by subtle and canny production touches, Kozelek's unerring musical ability to cradle awkward topics perfectly and guest help from Will Oldham, Steve Shelley and others. It isn't easy listening, akin to catching up with an over-sharing friend going through troubled times, but the stories are sad, funny and surprising, and the rewards are plentiful. (Caldo Verde)