Sun Kil Moon – Benji

BenjisunkilmoonRating: ★★★☆☆

For a long while, Mark Kozalek has been making music under the moniker of Sun Kil Moon. To be more specific, Benji marks the sixth full-length release from this man and the company that he surrounds himself with. He crafts his version of the singer/songwriter tale and takes you with him, if you’ll let him.

“Carissa” opens the album, presenting you with the potential beauty that can be found on this album—it’s Kozalek at his finest, with his dark vocals and lyrical creativity that make Sun Kil Moon what it is. Melancholy guitar plucking immediately fills the space once you begin, and immediately brings you into an intimate conversation with the artist. The chorus breaks in, Kozalek is joined by other voices coming together and suddenly it feels like you’re shooting the shit around the fire pit in your best friend’s backyard, sharing honest stories from your past and not worrying about the clock. This first track works like that—before you know it, you’ve been in it for almost seven minutes, letting it take you where it wants to in its wandering tale of nostalgia and grand simplicity. Most of the songs here do just this, taking you on a journey into some sad tale which may or may not resolve, or just leave you staring into the fire.

The odd thing about the songs that are found on Benji is a dissonance between the gravity that the instrumentation and vocal quality present and the lyrics that Kozalek has crafted. With the often-simple combination of acoustic guitar patterns accompanied by Kozalek’s solitary voice, one might expect poetry set to music—the songs becoming complex and intricate fastenings of wit and poignancy. While this does happen frequently on this record, it is not always the case on Benji. There are some moments that stick out painfully from the subtle beauty of Kozalek’s music. For example, take “Dogs,” which is the crude depiction of the loss of virginity of the songwriter—most of the song is uncomfortable imagery that is very much disconnected from the tonality of the music it’s set to. Another moment of this uncomfortable simplicity is the track “I Love My Dad—” which, while dear and sweet, leaves little to the imagination in its honest confession of exactly what the title proclaims. I don’t mean to be critical of the sentiment, just the means, or the lack thereof, of communication present in some places here.

But perhaps the moments of human simplicity on Benji are what draw some to Kozalek; the reality and closeness to human consciousness serves as a reprieve from lofty contemplation. For the most part, I can see such allure, but at some points these moments seem a little too base, adding comedy or seeming parody to something that is meant to be serious.

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