Though Ohio is probably better known for weirdos creating whacked out versions of noisy rock, the state has also produced its share of saddened singer-songwriters. One of the most talented and well-known is Mark Kozelek, who grew up in Massilon. After leaving Ohio, Kozelek made his way to San Francisco, where he formed the Red House Painters. The band signed to the storied 4AD label after Mark Eitzel, a songwriter with Ohio ties himself, passed on a tape of the band to label head Ivo Watts-Russell. Over the course of six albums with the Painters, Kozelek established a reputation as an achingly poignant lyricist. He also established his fascination with bombastic ’70s rock of the ilk that seemed incongruous with his own compositions; the Red House Painters released the Shock Me EP, whose title-track was a Kiss song, while Kozelek also put out a couple solo records on the side comprised mostly of AC/DC covers. Such experience would serve him well when Cameron Crowe cast him as Stillwater’s bassist in Almost Famous.
After the Red House Painters broke up in 2001, Kozelek formed Sun Kil Moon with RHP drummer Anthony Koutsos, as well as Tim Mooney, who played drums with Eitzel in American Music Club. (Both Koutsos and Mooney drummed in Sun Kil Moon.) But though Kozelek has also continued to release albums under his birth name, since 2010’s Admiral Fell Promises, Sun Kil Moon has become another name under which he performs solo. His new album, Among the Leaves, is comprised almost entirely of just Kozelek’s voice and nylon-stringed guitar. On it he’s abandoned the woe-is-me approach for one more self-effacing. And though he seems to long for the old days when he sings, “Sunshine in Chicago makes me feel pretty sad. My band played here a lot in the ’90s when we had lots of female fans, and fuck, they all were cute. Now I just sign posters for guys in tennis shoes,” he’s never sounded better.
Kozelek will be playing songs from the new record (and no doubt others from his massive songbook) tonight at the Music Hall of Williamsburg.