Unique in its cohesiveness and beautiful in its honesty, Sun Kil Moon delivers a true masterpiece with their new album Benji. Although still under the moniker Sun Kil Moon, Benji is born from the workings of singer/guitarist Mark Kozelek and plays like an autobiography of his life. The album is littered with motifs of death, family, childhood, maturity, and love; they’re all intertwined in an intricate spider web network, each song relating to the others.
Album opener “Carissa” is a portal into Masillon, Ohio—Kozelek’s hometown. The song tells the tale of Mark’s second cousin Carissa, who died in a fluke fire caused by an aerosol can. In this personal account, Kozelek dwells on the universal inextricable ties between family and that biological connection that never disappears, no matter how long the time spent apart.
On the following songs, Mark teaches the listener about his love for his mother (“I Can’t Live Without my Mother’s Love”), his discrepancies between love and sex (“Dogs”), and his musical inspiration (“I Watched the Film the Song Remains the Same”) all the while remaining true to the power of the complexity of one’s life story. In the beautiful Plastic Ono Band-esque “Jim Wise,” Kozelek reflects on days spent with his father, visiting his titular friend, a disabled bearded man preparing for prison after he’s killed his wife “and failed at suicide.” Complemented by female vocals as well as a distorted light-hearted keyboard that contrasts harsh subject matter with melodic music, Mark is able to summon the happiness in melancholy, the lessons in darkness.
Floating on haunting picked acoustic patterns, Sun Kil Moon offers one of the best albums released this year. The record is fantastic in its ability to convey universal truths about humanity within personal narrations while avoiding the obvious metaphorical statements typical of folk rock. If you have an hour to spare, listen to this album from start to finish; you can’t help but feel its powerful emotion.