Sun Kil Moon - Ghosts of the Great Highway
Oct 4, 2021
76
As a debut record, Sun Kil Moon's "Ghosts of the Great Highway" does a pretty faithful job at mapping out the path his discography's gone down. Whilst it may have some rockier influences, this record, from back to front, has Mark Kozalek's trademark vocal efforts and strong lyrics regarding life, death and existence. Musically, there may be some tracks that are forgettable compared to some of his best cuts, but for every one of them there's a track that's both sonically and lyrically on point, so it all evens out to an experience that's pretty good overall. Yeah, you could call it inconsistent, but it was a nice record overall. The infectious melodies start right off the bad with the two riveting openers "Glen Tipton" and "Carry Me Ohio", two very well-rounded tracks where Mark seemingly hits all the bases. The songwriting, as I've come to expect over his career, is super strong, and the song always maintains the sonic and productional merit to supplement it. The middle, though, is where things start to go a little downhill, as many of the ideas feel fairly dry compared to the best material on this project. Everything following "Savador Sanchez", one of the greatest displays of Kozalek's songwriting abilities on the project, felt super forgettable compared to everything else; they didn't hook me in instantly. Whilst Kozalek's vocal and lyrics remain super strong, the sonic ideas don't have the same zest, the same infectious chords that make Sun Kil Moon's best tracks so impactful. Normality is resumed come the end, though; following the epic and profound "Duk Koo Kim", Kozalek's consistency springs back to life, and I, once again, had no problem fully immersing myself in his worlds. Lyrically, his musings on life and death, themes prevalent throughout a vast majority of the work I've heard from him, feel just as deep and punchy as everything that'd follow from him. Everything naturally flows off the tongue, opening up a world that's vast and incredibly gripping. Every interpolation (explicitly referenced on the tracks "Savador Sanchez", "Duk Koo Kim" and "Pancho Villa") works, affirming the key messages at hand and only adding more meat to this project's bone. The writing doesn't share the spotlight here; all of it's fantastic, but, when it comes to the more sonic elements, some issues arise consistency-wise. But, ultimately, "Ghosts of the Great Highway" is a super effective precursor to Mark Kozalek's future projects under the Sun Kil Moon moniker, a project inundated with tracks instrumentally sparse and emotive backed by thematically rich lyricism that never fails to leave an impact.

Best Tracks: Carry Me Ohio, Duk Koo Kim, Pancho Villa
Worst Tracks: Floating, Gentle Moon, Si Paloma

Rating: B
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