Sun Kil Moon – Benji

justin perich benjiBenjiI’m calling it right now: Sun Kil Moon’s sixth album is the most unsettlingly, brutally honest record you’ll hear for a long, long time. From family tragedy to mass murder to fear of sex and aging to motherly and fatherly love to the Led Zepellin film The Song Remains the Same, songwriter Mark Kozelek muses honestly and openly on topics of varying sorrow, embarrassment, and joy in what sounds like free association, like a drunk man with a guitar at 4am, not bothering to censor himself and just singing what he feels, exactly as he feels it. The approach isn’t always aesthetically pleasing, or even enjoyable–without any metaphors or subtext to hide behind, you feel somewhat ashamed to be overhearing these lonely tunes crooned right into your ear in Kozelek’s signature marble-mouth whine. At some point, however, you realize that this is what every songwriter tries to do with music, or at least the best songwriters, and the only difference is no one else has ever taken it to such extremes. It’s a brave, generous compilation that comes closer than perhaps anything before to bring you into the melancholy mind of a prolific musician, and immortalizing the souls of those that have touched his and are now gone. Highlight tracks: “Carissa,” “Dogs,” “Pray For Newtown,” “I Watched The Film The Song Remains The Same,” “Ben’s My Friend.” 5/5 stars.

Warpaint – Warpaint

justin perich warpaintWarpaint (2014) – With their second and self-titled LP, Warpaint ups the ante on their hazy yet haunting brand of shoegazing groove. Yes the guitars still shimmer hypnotically and yes the lyrics still manage to be vulnerable while somehow remaining impenetrable, but it’s the momentum brought by new drummer Stella Mozgawa that really drives the record to new heights. Also added to the equation are producer Mark Ellis (AKA Flood, who has worked with the likes of Foal, U2, and Nick Cave) and mixer/Radiohead sidekick Nigel Godrich, whose contributions enrichen the vibe with beautiful sparse electronic embellishment. In particular, Godrich’s presence on “Love Is To Die” and “Feeling Alright” gives structure and discipline to an album that is otherwise beautifully formless and shapeless.  On the whole, this is music tailor made for late night summer strolls and train rides. At its best moments, it’s positively transportive. At it’s worst moments, hey, it’s still pretty cool. Favorite track: “Hi.” Most surprising: “Disco/very.”  Most affecting: “Son.” 4/5 stars.