Release date: 11 February 2014
Label: Caldo Verde Records
“Oh the complicated mess of sex and love
When you give that first stinger, you’re the one who gets stung
And when you lose control and how good it feels to cum
And when you pant like a dog getting into someone”
This isn’t the most obvious choice for album of the year. It’s certainly not for everyone. Mark Kozelek has very special way of singing these songs, at times it’s almost like he’s just reading the lyrics. This may take some time getting used to but once you do “Benji” is an absolute treasure. It’s filled with stories, both small and big, from Kozelek’s life where the central themes are love and death. “Carissa” is the tragic story about his little second cousin, a mother of two, who died at 35 in an accident while burning trash in the garden. “I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love” is one of the most beautiful mother tributes I’ve ever heard. “Truck Driver” is about how Mark found his calling as a guitar player and singer. It’s also the story about the life and death of his uncle, who by chance also happened to die while burning trash in the yard. “Dogs”, a reference to the song with the same name from the Pink Floyd album Animals, is possibly my favorite track on the album. It’s the story of Kozelek’s first experiences with sex and love and it’s the most honest and accurate description of sex and love that I’ve ever found in a song. It’s also the song from which I’ve picked the quote above. “Pray for Newtown” is about the senseless mass shootings that this world has seen in recent years. “Jim Wise” is the story of a friend Mark’s father who on in house arrest after killing his dying wife in her hospital bed to save her from suffering and then attempting to end his own life without success. Every time I hear Mark sing the part where Jim tells him about how his wife used to love her garden and its budding rosebush there’s a sting in my heart. Together these and the rest of the stories constitute one of the most revealing personal records ever made. After hearing them, these songs linger in your mind and the next time you play them you connect even deeper. There’s no other record released in 2014 that moves me like Benji does and this is why it’s my album of the year.
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