Album Reviews

Sun Kil Moon – Benji – Album Review


Those of you who pay even vague attention to such things will know that the Workhorse appreciates Mark Kozelek. We’ll admit he’s a bit of a moan, but when it comes down to it, there are few creating music quite as simple but yet beautiful as the man from Ohio. This is the first Sun Kil Moon album since the 2012 album ‘Among the Leaves‘ which marked a departure in Kozelek’s song writing career. He got bored writing love songs, is what he says himself. In terms of lyrics it marked a departure, as suddenly the focus was looking inwards, into the chore of touring, the dangers of song writing and his various sexual interludes, among many other stories of his life.

Since ‘Among the Leaves’ Kozelek has been involved in a couple of releases, at least. He’s recorded with Desertshore and Jimmy Lavalle to various degrees of success. In truth, he is possibly too prolific for his own good, and there is a large quantity of live recordings available on his web site also. The best of what he creates seems to be reserved for the ‘Sun Kil Moon’ moniker. In any case, this is the best thing he’s released since the previous ‘Sun Kil Moon’ album.

The title of the album comes from the film about the dog from 1974.

“I have this light, nice memory of going to see the movie Benji, at a Los Angeles movie theatre when I was a little kid, visiting my grandparents. This record is filled with so much darkness, I wanted to give it a light title, for contrast. Benji is a great movie, one of my favorites.” – MK

As Kozelek admits, the film bears little comparison to the album which focuses largely on mortality. The stories on this album are mostly about his family. There’s a love song for both his parents and another for his grandmother, songs about the death of his uncle and second cousin (who bizarrely both died in similar accidents involving aerosol cans). There are songs about modern America, a thank you song to the man that signed him and another for James Gandolfini. There are serial killers, one for a friend of his fathers who mercy killed his wife and just so much death!

Strangely, this doesn’t make the album any bleaker than his other releases. Plucked guitar features heavily and the sound will be familiar to those who follow his work. Mostly, there’s an acceptance that death is part of life, and there’s little you can do to avoid it. It’s a mature view of the world, and that of a man who has grown up writing songs, and exposed so much of his inner life to the microscope.

This album has received a spectacular review from Pitchfork, oddly enough. It’s not that it is undeserved, it’s just a surprise they picked this album for such high praise, and largely ignored what went before. There’s no radical growth or development on this album, and fans of what he does will continue to enjoy. It’s another view of life and love from Kozelek’s unique perspective, and we’ll relish each of them as they are released. One to enjoy!

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