Common as Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood is a journey through Sun Kil Moon – or Mark Kozelek’s – psyche over the course of two hours and nineteen minutes. An album of that length would be a dangerous move for some artists, but for Sun Kil Moon the different levels of emotion expressed along with different musical styles mean that the listener doesn’t feel that nearly two and a half hours of listening is a chore.
‘Chili Lemon Peanuts’ highlights the moment Kozelek picked up a guitar, and realised that this would create a different life path for him. It quickly turns to the inevitability of relationships ending due to the fact that life inevitably ends. It’s a monologue on life’s twists and turns. Meanwhile, ‘Philadelphia Cop’ laments the curse of marketing through social media while repeatedly asserting, “I am not a fucking puppet.” A recorded conversation about a career in music journalism resulting in being best friends with Sufjan Stevens and free entry to SXSW is an example of presenting your career in your social media highlight reel, as any journalist can attest.
‘The Highway Song’ takes a turn for the historical, narrating a report on the activities of the murder of a singer who specialised in “dad rock”. A murder based on celebrity leads on to ‘Lone Star,’ which blames the current political situation (Donald Trump’s presidency) on a self-involved generation that stares at their phones, and failed to see how their “stupidity willed him into candidacy.”
‘Sarah Lawrence College Song’ highlights the intersections between capitalism and education: the royalties that the artist collects from Walmart are equated with the cost of tuition fees for kids that seem nice, but are paying $60,000 a year to learn what they want. ‘Early June Blues’ continues to urge the listener not to focus on their phone, while listing the mundane tragedies of everyday life – shoot-outs near his regular barbershop.
‘Bastille Day’ is an unnerving number, because it mixes punchy guitar and bass beats with a monologue about terrorism. ‘Vague Rock Song’ continues a feeling of unsettlement with percussion beats that are combined with a vague notion of travelling to Africa in order to create a song that can be hummed, with words that are not “too fast.” ‘I Love You Forever and Beyond Eternity’ chooses to repeat the title, in a manner that finds the listener nodding along to this affirmation.
Common as Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood is an album firmly rooted in the recent past; using societal touchstones such as the political landscape, the economic climate and the current state of the music industry. As such, it feels like an intimate conversation with Kozelek – but how long will it take for this to become dated?