Sun Kil Moon’s (Mark Kozalek’s nom de plume) sixth and latest album is one of such simple clarity that you feel like you’re almost intruding by listening to it.
What strikes you initially is the directness and near banality of the song titles - I Watched The Film The Song Remains The Same (which is about watching that film), I Love My Dad (which is about his Dad), Ben’s My Friend (which is about his friend called, you guessed it, Ben).
This is sheer straightforward narrative, uncoated by your usual songwriter tricks. There are no grand statements, no delineated and dissected emotions, just direct statements of conversational detail.
And it’s this clinical matter of factness that makes these little stories so powerful - it’s up to the listener to react based on their own connection with similar details in their own lives, without the assistance of heart tugging rhymes and emotion tweaking chord patterns.
Similar to the impact of a documentary, which is able to elicit the required response no matter how “unbiased” the reportage.
Everything about this album is restrained - the vocal delivery, the sparse musical accompaniments, and the unswerving straight white line lyrics.
The subjects are small town Ohio relatives and friends, many of whom have died (some by bizarre means - Carissa from the song Carissa and Kozalek’s uncle from the song Truck Driver both died from aerosol explosions!) or are about to (I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love), and by the end of each diary entry style song you feel like you’ve shaken their hands.
Quite extraordinary really.
Sometimes quite uneasy listening, Benji, like some of its characters, can take a bit of getting used to, but is an album so innovatively unpretentious that you can’t help but warm to it.
An outstanding slow burner.
Musician, actor, singer, music reviewer, Phil’s interests cover a lot of bases and this is reflected in the music he writes about. From blues to soul, ambient to electronic, Phil writes about artists he feels are interesting, true to their craft and worthy of your ears.