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Sometimes I wonder if it would just be better for everyone if I’d gone ahead and married Mark Kozelek. I wouldn’t need anything from him, if he would just sit on a wicker chair in the corner of the room and carefully pluck his classical guitar all day that would be enough for me. However, if I had have done so we may have had some minor fallings out over his recent work. His Jimmy Lavelle collab. didn’t do anything for me despite many people I trust claiming I was wrong and I was an idiot. 2012's ‘Among the Leaves’ also left me cold particularly on the ditties about shagging groupies.
From first glance ‘Benji’ looks like the sort of album I am going to adore. The sleeve depicts a hazy shot of a glorious cornfield, it seems to be dominated by Kozelek’s beautiful guitar plucks which I could happily listen to for the rest of my life. The songs seem to be the most autobiographical of his career, predominately about family and long lost friends. To the point, on the odd track where you almost wish Kozelek would go ahead and bloody visit them rather than singing about them. He is singing in more of a croak these days, more like Will Oldham than his normal beautiful brown tones and the words seem to be shoehorned into the songs rather than carefully placed at intervals. This gives the lyrics a rather earnest feel as if Kozelek is sat there thinking “this will get them all weeping I’ll tell them I’ll hate it when my mother dies” or that “my dad is great”.
It may sound like I have a beef with the second track ‘I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love’ but its almost astonishingly naked and heartfelt to the point where you almost can’t listen to it. It rings so true for me and its a joy to hear a singer bare all about someone who is not a lover. There are some nice variations in his signature sound across the album ‘Dogs’ has an off kilter beauty that reminds me of R.E.M’s ‘The Wrong Child’ but my favourite moments are where Kozelek strums alone. The issue I’m having is that I’m not connecting emotionally to the lyrics in the way I did with his high water moments “April” and “Admiral Fell Promises”, these are so distinctive to him, all about him and his stuff and his shit and his things.
Still, the music is almost unrelentingly beautiful particularly on the jazz inflected anomoly of a closer ‘Ben’s My Friend’ which musically recalls Lambchop where the tangle of half scatted lyrics seem to be partly about his friendship with Ben Gibbard. Unfortunately this says absolutely nothing to me about my life and therein lies the reason why this album doesn’t quite hit top dollar.
9/10 Ashley 22nd July 2015
Probably Mark Kozelek's career album of all of his projects especially considering his recent self capitulation.
A highly emotional self-autobiographical album with obscure themes within as well as ones all can relate to wrapped up in a lovely gentle soundscape. The story telling is sharp and grips you from the first line “Carissa, when I first saw you, you were a lovely child/ And the last time I saw you, you were 15 and pregnant and running wild.”
The combination of the poignant themes and storytelling along with the changes of pace in the delivery across the 62 minutes is well worth your listening time.
8/10 mr hanky 30th January 2014
Grumpmaster Koz has been shooting releases from his Caldo Verde Records lair more frequently than something that occurs very frequently indeed.This latest aural delight, named after the film about Lassie's scruffy mongrel cousin, continues the long impressive couple of years where the quality has matched the quantity and how many artists can you say that about? Considering he has nobody to reign in his endeavours.....he owns the Record company and self-produces...it's nothing short of miraculous. The music? Oh yeah that, well it has lengthy outpourings sprinkled with guitars, plaintive brushstrokes, death, and (Isaac B)rock n Roll. He revisits his childhood getting to grips with early romantic grapplings. His Mum his Dad his friends his fiends. To follow Kozelek may cost a lot but hey its worth every cent. Dive in why doncha?
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