The backdrop for April was the passing of Kozelek’s former partner, who inspired ‘Katy Song’ on the Red House Painters (Rollercoaster) album in 1993. A lot of the songs on April are Kozelek wrestling with his former muse’s premature death from cancer; “I broke her heart not knowing she’d return/And graven scars deep in me, forever.” Stylistically, April is a continuation from Ghosts of the Great Highway, although one new feature is vocal cameos; Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard adds beautiful backing vocals to the opening ‘Lost Verses’, while Bonnie “Prince” Billy duets on ‘Like The River’.
‘Lost Verses’ is a gorgeous opener, before opening into a satisfying guitar jam. The other standout is ‘Tonight The Sky’, which follows the template of Neil Young’s electric epics – the central riff even sounds like a slowed down version of ‘Ohio’ – and perhaps references his former lover most clearly “I saw my sleeping sister/Rising toward a light/A mist above the skyline/On that never ending night.” Other highlights include the pretty ‘Blue Orchids’ and the delicate ‘Moorestown’.
A 9 is arguably overgenerous for April, as like a lot of Kozelek’s work, it’s drawn out and could have used an editor, but it’s my choice for his best record and ‘Lost Verses’ and ‘Tonight The Sky’ are two of the best songs he’s ever written.