The sparse musical arrangements and haunting production only serve to heighten the album’s intimacy and ultimately render it a masterpiece of reflection and introspection, destined to be played on repeat in scores of late-night, tired, and lonely rooms.
While Benji is consumed with death, sadness, mourning, and tragedy, there's gratitude within all this melancholy and it’s actually Kozelek’s least depressing and most life-affirming record
On Benji, and even more particularly on some of the live versions featured on the additional disc that accompanies the first ten thousand copies, Mark Kozelek is at least as piercing and persuasive as in his best output over the last two decades.
It isn't easy listening, akin to catching up with an over-sharing friend going through troubled times, but the stories are sad, funny and surprising, and the rewards are plentiful.
Kozelek creates because it’s his need, a blessing that cannot be wasted. And Benji is his way of showing gratitude to those who enriched his life to its greatest capacity.
The songs feature remarkably detailed scenes from Kozelek's life, but by attaching them to the universal theme of death he gives them much more gravitas. Somehow, despite all the personal details, this seems far from self-indulgent.
The whole production would be grotesquely comical if it didn’t feel so unflinchingly, unapologetically sincere. And here’s the thing. Benji doesn’t resonate in spite of its awkwardness, but wholly because of it.
Though Mark Kozelek has few equals when it comes to dislodging lumps in throats, Benji is his most emotionally taxing Sun Kil Moon record by some way.
Benji contains some of the most evocative songs about mortality and youth that have ever been written.
By the end of Benji, death is on the mind for the rest of us too. The mood is drab, but it's so masterfully put together you can't help but be sucked in to the bleak reality of Kozelek's existence.
By keeping things simple and letting it all hang out, the singer manages to add another solid batch of darkly confessional indie folk tracks to his already hefty CV.
This guy has written 40-plus albums of material, so it's saying something that Benji is one of his more challenging listens.
Sardonic, scathingly witty at times, and always painfully autobiographical, Benji is the sound of an artist giving his heart to his fans and saying, “Do with it what you will.”
Kozelek is a songwriter operating with audacity and confidence, composing wry and forthright confessionals that investigate areas of everyday darkness and despair too rarely explored in popular song.
Kozelek has a novelist’s eye for detail, and right from languid opener ‘Carissa’ – a song about his second cousin – he paints a vivid world and invites you to see it through his eyes.
Folk singer Mark Kozelek's remarkable sixth album as Sun Kil Moon feels less like a collection of songs than a series of eulogies delivered in real time.
Kozelek’s lack of reservation here is something to be begrudgingly admired, as his willingness to make yet another album that is solely for himself and those obsessive fans who want all the gory details of his past. For the rest of the world, there’s not much here to make any real connection with.
It's so intimate, the listener is, by definition, a voyeur. His hardcore following will no doubt celebrate it abundantly. Given its willful indulgence, however, others may find it a tipping point in the other direction.
Overall, your enjoyment of this album will depend on your patience and appreciation for Kozelek's idiosyncrasies. Sometimes he pulls it off wonderfully, and other times listeners might wish he'd left a little more to the imagination.
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