- Summary: The sixth full-length release for Mark Kozelek as Sun Kil Moon includes contributions from Owen Ashworth, Will Oldham, Sonic Youth's Steve Shelley, and Jen Wood.
- Record Label: Caldo Verde Records
- Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
- More Details and Credits »
Feb 10, 2014The sparse musical arrangements and haunting production only serve to heighten the album’s intimacy and ultimately render it a masterpiece of reflection and introspection, destined to be played on repeat in scores of late-night, tired, and lonely rooms.
Feb 11, 2014This album puts a stamp on Kozelek's career. I didn't expect that his role as the bass player in the fictional band Stillwater in the 1999 movie "Almost Famous" (which I copied onto cassette tape back then) would not be the highlight of his career. Mark Kozelek sings (and plays acoustic guitar) about many of the things we all go through in life. I was especially intent on listening to the song "I Can't Live Without My Mother's Love" because my loving mother died only 6 weeks ago. The rest of the album, as well as that song, practically outlines (intentionally or not) through the soul's sojourn in the material world. Everyone - except maybe a saint - can relate to these true stories in song. They are beautiful songs even when the lyrics turn ugly, overtly sensual or speak of death. Birth, death, disease and old age are the things all of us souls go through in the material world (as one hears about in most George Harrison songs). While listening to these songs, I reflect on what my own life has been like, find parallels, and ironically, they make me think about how to make my life better. Finally, I love the melodies and denseness of this album and how the lone saxophone starts in towards the end of the album as if bringing all of his experiences and emotions into one final symphony. Spellbinding!… Expand
Aug 2, 2014"Benji" sees Mark Kozelek pouring his heart out with candour never before seen on a Sun Kil Moon record. A prime example of his honesty is presented on "Dogs", where Kozelek shamelessly exposes (or perhaps lovingly professes his affection to) his previous sexual partners. This frankness is again repeated on cuts such as "I Can't Live Without My Mother's Love" & "I Love My Dad". In the former he praises his mother as the major figure in his life, and in the latter he nostalgically remembers the activities he used to do with his Dad, both in perfectly understandable language.
The above point is a major theme of this record - Kozelek doesn't compromise his highly-strung tales through complex symbolism or pretentious lyricism. He presents things exactly how they were, often in painstaking detail. As a result, the album's atmosphere becomes grounded in reality. For example, the absurdity of serving KFC at his uncle's funeral is counterbalanced with the banal statement that "that's how he would've wanted it, I'm sure".
Sun Kil Moon often paints a picture of himself as breaking down while everything and everyone around him stays the same. This is most obvious in "Pray For Newtown": Kozelek was deeply affected by the 1984 San Ysidro Massacre, but everyone around him "got up and stretched and yawned//and then our lives went on". He later calls his friends concerning the 2011 Norway attacks, "but no one much really cared".
The album's stripped down production, often comprising of just Kozelek and his guitar, has been deliberately engineered so as to not distract the listener from the powerful subject matter with which lyrics wrestle. The final song of the album, "Ben's My Friend", contains fleshier production containing percussion and saxophone, reminiscent of his earliest solo releases, specifically “Ghosts of the Great Highway".
This link (however tenuous it may be) between his first and last album creates an almost cyclical discographic continuation, which is perhaps reflective of Kozelek's view that crises and problems repeat themselves throughout life (particularly apparent on the first and third tracks). His cousin and uncle die in almost exactly the same circumstances, and shootings (involving mostly children) manifest themselves repeatedly in history with much the same events and consequences.
"Benji" does indeed deal with death. Fatalities in shootings, the fact that Mark's mother may be nearing the end of life, and a case of euthanasia in "Jim Wise" all find their places on the record. More importantly however, is that Kozelek looks back with a sort of reminiscence or nostalgia at his childhood, remembering how he and his friends used to watch “Happy Days” whilst eating Domino’s pizza, or recalling how his aunt soothed his hornet sting with baking powder. So although death for Kozelek is a prominent entity in life, he values more significantly the experiences he has had, as a way of dealing with difficulties. Perhaps it is this fact which is at the root of his genuine desperation at the Newport school shooting: he find himself reading obituaries of six and seven year old children who will never grow up to experience what he has experienced.
All in all, the sheer honestly and openness with which Kozelek narrates major events of his life is astonishing. The album’s production, musical arrangement, and the variation of themes throughout, create a record which will no doubt become more and more rewarding to indulge in at every listen. On the surface, Kozelek's lyricism seems simple and mundane, but upon closer examination, listeners can unearth a treasure-trove of emotionally-charged and frankly recalled stories concerning life, death, love and desperation. A+… Expand
Apr 5, 2014This is some of the most singularly candid, intensely roller-coaster-of-emotion poetry ever committed to record. The stripped down minimalism of the music leaves space for you to fully take in Kozelek's lyrics. And still, his voice is sometimes wonderful and the music, when it does come in is certainly lovely enough. Few records immediately promise that you will be listening to them forever. This one does.… Expand
Sep 28, 2014Benji is like an opera where Koselek shows the magnificence of playing beautiful shinny acoustic guitar riffs.
By it´s own part, the album is pretty, friendly, shinny, but not creative at all, because most of the riffs are most likely the same, but is greatly saved by the lyrics, and all that, gives a great enjoyable album
Best song: Ben´s my friend
Wickest song: Richard Ramirez Died Today Of Natural Causes… Expand
Feb 12, 2014This is the first of Mark Kozelek's albums for me to hear, so I didn't know what to expect at first. But i ended up liking what i heard. The music is mostly minimal, giving room for the lyrics to shine. They are truly beautiful, as well as heartbreaking.
On the other hand, i wish the album was more like the closing track (Ben's My Friend). That's my favorite track of them all. Great lyrics, accompanied by some of the most terrific music i heard in quite some time. It somewhat reminded me of Kaputt, the 2011 album by Destroyer.
Other tracks i liked: Carissa, I Can't Live Without My Mother's Love, and Jim Wise.
Overall, a very satisfying album, and i'm looking forward to checking out his previous work.… Expand
Feb 28, 2014I now have a base line for the worst album I have ever heard ... and it's name is Benji by Sun Kil Moon.
The guitar in each song is the same 3 boring, rambling finger picked chords for upwards of 8 minutes. The vocal is the least melodic single note monotone cringeworthy vocal line. The lyrics are the most self indulgent exploration into death I've ever heard. There is one song about how he will be sad if his mum dies and no one is allowed to talk **** about her, another song about how he loves his dad, another song about a couple of mass murders but he somehow makes it about him, a song about his pets
Dying , an 8 minute song about his 2nd cousin dying - how sad he was even though he admits in the song he has only seen her once in 30 years ... And he didn't talk to her then ... He makes her death about him.… Expand
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