Sun Kil Moon – Ben’s my friend (from the album Benji, Caldo Verde Records)

Not so new but an album I've just been getting into recently by Sun Kil Moon (with thanks to my buddy Neil). That's Mark Kozelek, the veteran ex-Red House Painters man. Somehow, I never managed to get into that band. Maybe it’s an age thing for me now, cos this is certainly a mature person’s music (in years if not behaviour).

'Ben's my friend' is a rollercoaster of nostalgic memoir from middle life, surfing on a wave of bossa nova and collapsing under the weight of Kozelek’s creaking, soul-weary vocals. It's wonderful and so utterly plausible.

That full band bossa arrangement is all the more effective for being unexpected, coming as it does at the very end of the album. Up to then, fingerpicked guitar patterns (almost exclusively) circle around the trapped characters of these mournful story songs, mostly centred on family and childhood. There’s a distinctly literary aftertaste to the songwriting, with something of Raymond Carver’s short story matter of factness about it.

‘Ben’s my friend’ doesn’t shy from the sadness or the pointlessness of life but the saxophone and shakers with meaty drumbeats give some sense of a flowering of mood, an opening out in some way.

And the details will get you where it hurts – from eating blue crab cakes with his girlfriend, to worrying to death about his mother, to going to see his friend Ben (Gibbard) playing in The Postal Service.


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