Thursday 6 February 2014

Review of "Benji" by Sun Kil Moon

At a glance, some of the track titles on this album – “I can’t live without my mum” and “I love my dad” – initially struck me as childish and soppy. However, this succinct openness swiftly reveals itself to be the thing that makes Benji so goddamn good.

On Benji, folk singer Mark Kozelek (aka Sun Kil Moon) exchanges poetry for simplistic storytelling. The songs centre largely around tragedy, Mark recounting rose-tinted tales from his past that all seem to end unhappily with death. 

The tracks are by and large intensely intimate and intensely depressing: some designed to be genuine tearjerkers, others so bluntly depressing that they become comical - I think intentionally so. When Mark sings “my uncle died in a fire on his birthday” (pretty bloody depressing stuff) he seems to not be wallowing in the sadness of it but instead admiring the irony. 

There are moments in which the humour is certainly much less subtle, like in the track “dogs”. Even most gangsta rappers wouldn’t dare to reach the jarring levels of sexual explicitness found in this song. It's exactly what you don't expect to hear on a folk record, and that itself makes it humorous. 

Then there’s the closer, “Ben’s my friend”, perhaps my favourite track on the album. Some of the vocal hooks such as “blue crab cakes” and “sports bar shit” are hilariously bizarre and the arrival of a bass guitar, drums and a smoky sax into the mix all help to create a classy and elegant crescendo to the record, transporting the listener to a swanky apartment overlooking the moonlit New York City skyline. Well, that's the scene I pictured anyhow.

An emotional maelstrom, Benji is an album that will certainly stick with you for a while. Indeed, the album is obsessed with death and loss, but it leaves you feeling somewhat enlightened. Mark seems to overall be celebrating life’s tragedies rather than mourning them, valuing them as experiences that have built him as a person, experiences that make us all who we are. But anyway, I won’t pretend to be a philosopher. In simple terms, Benji is deep stuff that made my mascara run and yikes, life is fragile! #manscara #yolo #listentothisalbum