Sun Kil Moon
Benji


4.5
superb

Review

by Jonny Hunter CONTRIBUTOR (103 Reviews)
February 11th, 2014 | 311 replies


Release Date: 02/11/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Death inspires the band's best work in years.

You're going to die. Everyone you know will die. Everyone you will ever meet will die. Everyone they know will die. Everyone you love, the girl who smiled at you while you waited in line for coffee last week and the oddly cheery stranger offering a sympathetic smile as your umbrella breaks again: they're all going to die too. Look at you sitting there in front of a screen. Dying. You're basically a breathing compost heap waiting to happen.

It's a constant surprise Mark Kozelek knows anyone left alive. Death and ageing are a frequent presence in his lyrical narrative and Benji begins with yet another funeral. Carissa, a distant second-cousin Kozelek hadn't seen for two decades, was consumed by flames when an aerosol can exploded in a trash bag she carried outside. The same way his uncle went, we're told. It sets the tone for an album obsessed with death, its effects and everything it makes you think about. You weren't looking for an album to cheer you up, were you?

The characteristic meander of his lyrics really come into their own here as Kozelek slowly weaves regret and fear into arguably his most powerful narratives yet. As usual, he's surprisingly honest: repeating how terrified he is by the prospect of his parents' impending death and describing the pains of growing older. When sex comes up (as it must always do in a Kozelek project) it's rushed, ugly and brutally graphic: speeding through his early sexual encounters to conclude it all as a "complicated mess." Worryingly, it's the only point on Benji where the focus is on life; he doesn't seem impressed. In contrast the focus on death borders on obsessive.

Hats are off for the band, who supply some excellent moods for Kozelek to cry to. Opener "Carissa" rolls with a gloomy guitar loop somehow managing to toe the line between dreary and apathetically beautiful. The tone is perfect: conjuring up the reality of death's wake before the lyrics even begin. A later country-inspired jam is equally apt when it captures the old school father-son relationship described in "I Love My Dad," and the lighthearted jingle of "Jim Wise" cunningly sets you up for the line "he put the gun to his head and it jammed and he didn't die." While beautiful, all eyes remain on Kozelek and his lyrics: the rest of Sun Kil Moon mostly serve as emphasis. Brilliant emphasis, but as enablers nonetheless.

By the end of Benji, death is on the mind for the rest of us too. The mood is drab, but it's so masterfully put together you can't help but be sucked in to the bleak reality of Kozelek's existence. In the nature of this window-view of his life any conclusion on our part is purely personal so the only one I can offer is my own. We're all going to die, and it sucks, but if Mark dies before me I know I'll be with a friend and two guitars: tabbing up the music of "Carissa" and connecting to other people over the inevitable end that will tear us apart.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
StrangerofSorts
Contributing Reviewer
February 11th 2014


2714 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I can hear Robin Thicke through the wall. Quite distracting.

fish.
Contributing Reviewer
February 11th 2014


22004 Comments


lol goldney

Digging: Miguel - Kaleidoscope Dream

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
February 11th 2014


10271 Comments


Ok, this review is awesome. I haven't wanted to check out this album until now.

StrangerofSorts
Contributing Reviewer
February 11th 2014


2714 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

THIS IS WHERE MY MIND GOES WHEN I DON'T DRINK

Ponton
Emeritus
February 11th 2014


5803 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5 | Sound Off

its garbage compared to what he's done. garbage compared to anything really

StrangerofSorts
Contributing Reviewer
February 11th 2014


2714 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

But yeah, haven't got this engrossed in death since Spectral Dusk

Wadlez
February 11th 2014


4238 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

quite delicious garbage

Digging: Kayo Dot - Coffins On Io

StrangerofSorts
Contributing Reviewer
February 11th 2014


2714 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Ponton you're obviously way too happy.

Underflow
February 11th 2014


2579 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Yeah, go read some Dostoevsky.

Digging: Flying Lotus - You're Dead!

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
February 11th 2014


7357 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Tremendous review Jonny. I'm still feeling my way into this.

Brostep
Staff Reviewer
February 11th 2014


3469 Comments


You're basically a breathing compost heap waiting to happen.


wish you'd made staff tbqh have a mindpos my friend

klap
Staff Reviewer
February 11th 2014


10494 Comments

Album Rating: 4.1

surprised at how divisive this album has been

Digging: Caribou - Our Love

Brostep
Staff Reviewer
February 11th 2014


3469 Comments


downer rating this album the same as Green Day's Uno! is surprising sure

StrangerofSorts
Contributing Reviewer
February 11th 2014


2714 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

no album deserves that

Gyromania
February 11th 2014


15941 Comments


i think i'm going the other way now with this album. liking it a lot now

Digging: Lantlos - .neon

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
February 11th 2014


7357 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Just gave this another listen, it's really starting to click now. Review depicts it perfectly.

letsgofishing
February 11th 2014


903 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Have no idea what to rate this. On one hand, its one of the most beautiful, intimate, and oddly touching albums I've ever heard.

On the other hand- I have a feeling a second listen would be excruciatingly painful.

StrangerofSorts
Contributing Reviewer
February 11th 2014


2714 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Ah cool, thanks man

Been touring other reviews of this: have to be honest I had no idea this was such a big thing.

SmersH
February 11th 2014


418 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

great writing!

this has steadily been growing on me... liking it a lot more than Among the Leaves.

Digging: Scott Walker and Sunn O))) - Soused

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
February 11th 2014


19916 Comments


really nice review. Not sure if i've ever read your reviews tbh but i really dug this approach.

Digging: Dornenreich - Freiheit



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