Mark Kozelek's back-catalog as the creative force behind the Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon is brimming with quietly staggering original records of sepia-faded depth and a paradoxically radiant bleakness. It is his ability not just to interpret the songs of others but to incorporate them into his fingerplucked world of lovely sadness, though, that makes him such a intensely satisfying and occasionally surprising performer. The Finally LP’s collection of acoustic covers lacks the miracle of surprise -- Kozelek’s 2001 album, Rock ‘N Roll Singer, which found him turning in a set of slow-motioned and gorgeous covers of Bon Scott-era AC/DC tunes, has already set the standard for his interpretive gifts. But this survey of performers as diverse as Low, Will Oldham, Bob Mould and Stephen Sondheim is just as imbued with a sense of majestic and haunting sadness as were the formally nasty rockers that litter Singer.
An attempt to gather a survey of the myriad tracks Kozelek has given away to tribute records, soundtracks and compilations, The Finally LP is, at only ten tracks, woefully incomplete. That said, the songs that are here, while not revelatory, are quite wonderful. Kath Bloom’s “Finally” is a gently insistent whirlpool of arcing vocal melodies; the 12-string take on Low’s “Lazy” becomes the record’s sweetly loping heartbeat, infused with a nostalgic, playful wistfulness; and Hüsker Dü's “Celebrated Summer” looses its red-lined guitar gnarl and gains a startling sense of humanity as Kozelek slows it to a trickle to find the pearls lining its previously punk-snarled foundations.
In all, this compilation of songs from films and tributes becomes nothing less than an inadvertent tribute to Kozelek himself, a finely woven tapestry of pop music as refracted through his heartfelt filter of pastoral, troubled beauty.
Despite the fact that he’s capable of crafting quietly ear-stunned original records of bleakly radiant acoustic introspection or moving, Crazy Horse-inspired rock, one of Mark Kozelek’s greatest gifts as a musician and performer is his ability to reinterpret other songwriter’s material and blending it into his aural world of gentle sepia beauty. Unfortunately—with the exception of the excellent AC/DC acoustic covers record What’s Next to the Moon (2001) and the Sun Kil Moon takes on Modest Mouse that is Tiny Cities (2005)—most of these covers have been scattered throughout various compilations, both in-and out-of-print, and left to the purview of hardcore collectors. The Finally LP aims to rectify this, culling ten cover songs originally written for children’s shows, benefits and tribute albums, as well as wholly unreleased material, such as Kozelek’s cover of “Celebrated Summer,” as well as a handfull of unreleased instrumentals. And yes, diehards, there’s even a cover of AC/DC’s “If You Want Blood,” just for old time’s sake.