Sun Kil Moon – Benji (Caldo Verde)
And you thought Mark Kozelek was baring his soul already these past two decades. Turns out after all those years of transcendent weariness it was possible to get even rawer, to venture even deeper into unimaginable despair. Benji reveals the man behind the curtain and the stories behind the sadness: Yes, the guy who wrote “Carry Me Ohio” really is that hopelessly morbid, and here’s why.
Kozelek is a troubled man, but only because he’s an honest one. This album is astounding in its vulnerability. Kozelek shares everything, dignity be damned, spinning ridiculously detailed anecdotes and confessing feelings most people would be too terrified to reveal. He’s not pretending he’s too tough to form deep connections with people, nor is he acting like he’s impervious to the devastation that comes when life or death rips those people away from him forever. He mourns the human beings he’ll never see again and anxiously anticipates the misery that awaits when the rest of them go. You end up feeling like you know these people and identifying with the overwhelming sense of loss that haunts Kozelek’s every waking moment. It fucks you up.
These thoughtfully scrawled diary entries are set to understated mood music, simple loops that function mostly as a backdrop for the lyrics. In the past, it was possible to listen to certain Sun Kil Moon songs like “Lost Verses” and get swept up in the music without ever connecting with the words. Benji doesn’t give you that luxury. The lush fingerpicking and minimal accoutrements function more like a score for the story of Kozelek’s life, setting the tone and getting out of the way of his weathered baritone. They serve the narrative, and the narrative goes something like this: “I cannot shake melancholy/ For 46 years now, I cannot break the spell/ I’ll carry it throughout my life and probably carry it to hell.”
That’s bleak, but again, Kozelek is just being real. Death is coming for you and yours; suffering is unavoidable. Kozelek ain’t one to pray, but he is one to sing and play, so he’s doing the only thing a mortal being can do when his heart, body, and mind are breaking down: resonating. –Chris [LISTEN]