I spent the morning listening to Sun Kil Moon’s latest album Benji and drinking coffee. It would end, I would start it over and get another cup of coffee and do some more work. I thought I would have some sense of whether it was ‘good’ or ‘bad’ by the time the afternoon rolled around. I didn’t. I still don’t. I know I liked it, I know it’s extremely interesting and rather stunning and I know I probably can’t spend too many mornings listening to it if I want to stay happy. Benji is a great album, but it might not be for you. Hell, it might not be for me. But I think it was worth my time to explore it and listen to it, and I think it’s worth yours to do the same.
Here’s why: Benji is challenging, raw and uncomfortably honest, Mark Kozelek delivering his deep confessions and insecurities in plain, blunt, sometimes ugly words, wholly uninterested in dressing up his stories to make them easier to digest. There’s beauty in these songs, too, no doubt- ‘I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love,’ for instance- but beauty is secondary to the rambling, devastating stories and societal themes (grief, mercy, violence, love, etc.) being worked through. I can’t think of an album I’ve heard recently that sounds like this, that dares the listener to sit there and not flinch during a song like ‘Dogs’ (you don’t hear those words or acts described that plainly in sad bastard music, really), that asks listeners to remember those times we spend a lot of adulthood trying to erase from our memories or talk to counselors about how to deal with. It’s a hard, skin-crawling listen at times, one that consistently punches you in the gut and pokes at those soft, vulnerable spots in your psyche until it’s almost too much, but ultimately I think it’s a great piece of work, one that deserves to be appreciated even if it’s not something that’s likely to find itself in heavy rotation. I talk a lot about being obsessed with a song or an album, but there’s something to be said about appreciating something, not just being obsessed with it.