Review Summary: Blue Crab Cakes.
In this wonderful internet music age we are currently living in, everyone has an opinion, and that’s a beautiful thing. As cool as it is for music listeners alike to gather hundreds of miles away from one another on the computer to discuss music as they like, it doesn’t always call for good discussion. Often people disagree on each other’s musical taste, make assumptions on albums based on reviews without listening to them, and assume that if people don’t like what they do, they’re wrong, and I am no exception to this. As I’ve grown older I have begun to shed all of my music cynicism that I carried with me throughout my teen years, and I’ve become more accepting of other listener’s taste and theories on music, even if I don’t care for it. As much as I’ve progressed in that aspect, sometimes I’ll come across opinions that infuriate me because of how ill-advised they are.
One of the silliest and most clichéd music arguments I’ve heard to this day in music is “simple music isn’t as good as complex music”. It has always been an argument I’ll never be able to just brush off. People assume that if a band’s playing talent isn’t to the level of Dream Theater then they are basically just a waste of time, which is actually really sad. Listeners who just glide over genres that aren’t up to par in the technicality of their favorite bands miss out on one of the greatest things music has to offer, the emotional aspect.
Sun Kil Moon’s Benji
may end up being one of the most simple albums of 2014 (after all, it’s just Mark Kozelek strumming a guitar and singing non-abstract stories about events in his life), but it will go down as one of the most emotionally captivating and interesting albums of the year as well.
isn’t a very digestible album first listen. In fact, I would go as far as to say it’s a depressing and borderline unpleasant experience. Right off the bat this album will bum you out. The album’s opener “Carissa” tells a saddening story about Mark’s second cousin who after becoming pregnant at a young age, dies in a fire right outside of her house. The idea of death continues on tracks like “Truck Driver”, which tells a similar story about his redneck uncle dying in a similar way not long after Carissa, and “Pray for Newtown”, which deals with the tragic shootings in Connecticut. Out of all the sadder tracks, the one that really stuck was “Jim Wise”. This track deals with a man who killed his wife to put her out of her misery, only to be sentenced to prison not long after, and just longing for his old life with his wife.
Though Mark’s storytelling is consistent throughout the album, there are some times in the album where he seems rather nostalgic and happy. Songs like “I Love My Dad” and "I Can't Live Without My Mother's Love" are beautiful odes to Mark’s parents, and may be just enough to crack a smile for just a second on this sad trip. Mark also gets nostalgic on the track “Dogs” where he cracks down basically every significant sexual relationship he’s had in his life, and then goes on to compare these sexual encounters to the concept of love. He’s even more nostalgic on the track "I Watched the Film the Song Remains the Same", which is a track that breaks down Mark growing up the way he did and becoming the man that he is today.
As bland as eleven straight tracks of a man telling stories may seem, Sun Kil Moon has a very interesting and unique way of telling stories. Every song on this record is incredibly detailed to the point of nausea, but in a good way. The stories are so vivid and detailed that it makes it easier for the listener to get entranced in the story. The guitar playing leaves such a dark and ambient atmosphere that leaves rarely a dull moment in this album, which does nothing but help the listener get a sense of the mood that Mark is trying to get across in his stories.
While this album is great, it does have a fair share of faults. For one, the story telling technique that Mark uses throughout this album does get a little overused for an entire album. The songs can appear a little too similar because of this, giving the guitar playing the same issue as well. Basically if the stories Sun Kil Moon don’t engage you, this will be a very boring listen.
Overall, this is a fantastic release for 2014 that no one should pass up on. It’s a perfect album to just kick back to and get lost in. Sun Kil Moon has a lot of interesting stories to tell, and it should be very easy for us to all listen.