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Sun Kil Moon – Benji Album Review

11 MayComments Off
Author: Sam

Don’t be fooled by the title of Sun Kil Moon’s sixth album, Benji. Although it was titled after the film of the same name, Mark Kozelek hasn’t suddenly started to write songs about cute, furry animals. Instead, Benji may be Sun Kil Moon’s rawest, most unflinching and autobiographical record yet, which is saying something for a guy who generally hasn’t shied away from opening himself up in his music.

Musically, Benji is similar to its predecessor, Among the Leaves. It’s almost entirely a one-man show highlighting Kozelek’s unvarnished, pleading voice and his signature nylon-stringed acoustic guitar playing which lends a timeless quality to the music (it doesn’t approach his neo-classical masterpiece, Admiral Fell Promises, but it’s nevertheless pleasant). The lyrics, however, have taken things to another level of courageousness altogether, and they will likely by the divisive factor determining whether one finds this record enjoyable.

Benji‘s eleven tracks play out like eleven distinct entries from Kozelek’s private journal, torn out and exposed to the public. The main theme coursing through this album is the concept of mortality. It’s explored and sung about not in lofty, philosophical terms as many musicians have done in the past, but through intimately specific, slice-of-life details. Death and dying litter the lyric sheet; seriously, the body count of Benji rivals that of some gangsta rap records. From the very first track, “Carissa,” Kozelek has his eyes trained on deaths he’s experienced–in this case, a second cousin he really didn’t know all that well. But that doesn’t stop Kozelek from mining lyrical–and emotional–gold from an unfortunate tragedy. He sings, “But that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t / meant to find some poetry to make some sense of this, to find a deeper meaning…She was only my second cousin / But that don’t mean I’m not here for her or that I wasn’t / meant to give her life poetry.” And just like that, he so eloquently and beautifully declares the intentions of this record.

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You’d think that a band named after a Korean boxer would have a bit of an edge to it.

Well, you’d be wrong.

Sun Kil Moon, the solo project of singer-songwriter Mark Kozelek (formerly of Red House Painters), has as much edge as a tennis ball.

Admiral Fell Promises, the third album of original material from Kozelek under the Sun Kil Moon moniker, sees him continuing his tradition of taking a nylon-stringed guitar and little else and turning out gorgeously bare tunes that drip with loneliness and melancholy.

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