As if two hours of water slides, diving off diving boards, and playing aquatic basketball weren’t enough, I’m currently sitting at the Boyce-Gyro Beach down the road from out condo while other members of our crew are off at a winery somewhere. Me? I’m sipping a huge ass margarita on a beach between bouts of frisbee, reading and listening to the ‘Universal Themes‘ album by Sun Kil Moon.
‘Universal Themes’ is the seventh album by the indie folk act known as Sun Kil Moon, released in June of 2015 on Caldo Verde Records. The album was preceded by the singles, ‘The Possum‘, ‘Garden of Lavender‘ and ‘Ali/Spinks 2‘, and features contributions from Sonic Youth drummer and Benji collaborator Steve Shelley.
On, ‘Benji’ (see link above), Kozelek took a confessional approach and just ran with it, splaying open his brain and heart to pour out all the nasty details about dead family members, being afraid of serial killers, and going down on two girls as a 12-year-old. While it was still able to find joy among the unfairness of life, Benji certainly wasn’t pretty – at least not all of the time. ‘Universal Themes’ continues this trajectory, but with an increased rawness in the subject matter.
Maybe not ideal beach music, but I too am choosing to run with it.
It might be one of the most in-the-moment albums ever made, as if Kozelek vomited words about everything that’s gone on his life since ‘Benji’ right as it was all happening, kicked the ass of a few chords until they fit around the lyrics, called over buddy Shelley to lay down some drums, then cut it all to tape.
‘The Possum‘, takes place before, during, and after a Godflesh gig on April 20th, 2014. ‘The Birds of Films‘ chronicles Kozelek’s discomfort with playing himself in an Italian film that would go on to later premier at Cannes, and the closer ‘This Is My First Day and I’m an Indian and I Work at a Gas Station‘ ends with his and Ben Gibbard’s acoustic set at Noise Pop earlier that year. Elsewhere, he skewers his aging fanbase (again) in ‘Cry Me a River Williamsburg Sleeve Tattoo Blues‘, gets depressed about dead plants on ‘Garden of Lavender‘, and takes a distracted trip to New Orleans with his girlfriend in ‘Ali/Spinks 2‘. Of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Every one of Kozelek’s bittersweet adventures goes off on countless detours where he ruminates on the character actor Steve Railsback, Gomez concerts, and a million other things amidst the central, bigger-picture topics.
Does ‘Universal Themes’ tend to ramble? Fuck yes. But I love it. It’s like listening to someone’s musical diary that recounts every mundane detail of an otherwise boring and uneventful life…assuming of course that this kind of weird shit happens to everyone, which I believe it does.