When Sun Kil Moon’s Mark Kozelek mentioned that his new album, Tiny Cities, was entirely composed of reinterpreted Modest Mouse covers, the lauded praise he received was met with certain disapproval. However, the project follows three solo albums and the acclaimed debut of Ghosts Of The Great Highway (2003), an acoustic gem that showcases some of Kozelek’s best work. Cities, to be released November 1st, is an ode to the classic songwriting of Modest Mouses’ Isaac Brock, whom Kozelek discovered a few years ago. Intending to see The Shins open, Kozelek eventually encountered Modest Mouse. In Brock, Kozelek saw the depth of an “exceptional writer” with “lyrics that take all these twists and turns.” Aside from the new album, Kozelek has also covered the likes of AC/DC, KISS, John Denver and Simon & Garfunkel. Before going solo, Kozelek was a member of the Red House Painters, who produced six acclaimed albums for 4AD, Supreme and Sub Pop. He has also been featured in films by Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous and Vanilla Sky), on the Elizabethtown soundtrack, and the upcoming flick and soundtrack of Shopgirl, starring Steve Martin.
Kozelek’s voice and acoustic strumming throughout Cities leaves the clarity of a gathered dawn. Besides a slower re-vamp of Modest Mouse’s “explosive” style, Kozelek also delivers a fresh take on Brock’s lyrics that consoles when homebound on a mercurial afternoon. “Exit Does Not Exist” and “Four Fingered Fisherman” especially project a precisely hollow reach in vocals. The album is being released through Kozelek’s independent label, Caldo Verde, and was recorded in San Francisco with the help of Aaron Prellwitz (Red House Painters, Alaska!, Hella). Guest features include Anthony Koutsos (Red House Painters), Geoff Stanfield (former bassist of Black Lab), violinists Alan Molina and Michi Accret, and vocals by Emily Heron on “Grey Ice Water”. Kozelek imitates Brock in the acoustic style that highlights the brilliance of his songwriting and pays tribute to the poignancy that was perhaps originally intended, as is the case with any form of flattery.