Tag Archives: best albums of 2014

The Best Albums of 2014: #7 Sun Kil Moon – Benji


Let’s put aside what an asshole Mark Kozelek has made himself out to be this year, and focus instead on the most intricate lyrical production I’ve ever heard, Benji. 

I’ll admit, I’d never listened to Sun Kil Moon until Benji and my process with this one was as such: Pitchfork gives album high marks >>> I listen once >>>>I ignore it for 4-6 weeks >>> I listen again and read lyrics to “Richard Ramiez Died Today of Natural Causes” >>> Am blown away and dive deeper.

Kozelek ignores all conventional lyric formats and doesn’t feel the need to rhyme anything. It’s just one long strewn story and his excellent layered acoustic guitar plucking builds the tension in the story he’s telling like the score of a movie. The stories on Benji make you move closer to the edge of your seat as it progresses. Here, listen:

It’s a gripping tale of an 80’s-era mass murderer in the Bay area, who died in 2013 while on death row at San Quentin. It calls memories of Sufjan Stevens’ opus, “John Wayne Gacy Jr.” But Kozelek also shines for his guitar work. He’s a savant to say the least. His methods shift from classical to Spanish and beyond, as he weave within chords and tracks as intricately as his lyrics.

He sings about his Mother and Father with such love and adoration. “I Love My Dad” is the type of song that makes you want to call your old man just to see how he’s doing. “I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love” will warrant an “I love you” midnight text to Mom. She won’t know what hit her. Check these bars from “I Love My Dad”:

When I was a kid my dad brought home a guitar he got from Sears
I took lessons from a neighbor lady but it wasn’t going anywhere
He went and got me a good teacher
And in no time at all I was getting better
I can play just fine
I still practice a lot but not as much as Nels Cline

Love the Nels Cline/Wilco reference here. He’s kinda awkward, but his stories paint such a vivid picture of his breed of Americana; from his time in the Bay and his time on the East coast. It often feels tongue-in-cheek, but its wonderful smart and inventive songwriting.

The album closes with “Ben’s My Friend,” (which according to my Spotify Year in Music, I listened to more than any other track this year) a story about a day in San Francisco that leads to meeting frontman Ben Gibbard at a Postal Service show at the Greek theater in Berkeley.  It’s seriously one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. Here:

I can’t get over his lyrics like “We ate at Perry’s and we ordered crab cakes……blue crab cakes…..blue crab cakes” It makes me smile and appreciate the little things in life, like fucking crab cakes at a cafe near the Embarcadero. There’s a beautiful saxophone that comes in midway through the track as Kozelek plucks away at the guitar. He waxes on what it feels like to be a forty-something at a concert and layers the vocal track on top of itself and opens the final verse with:

There’s a fine line between a middle-aged guy with a backstage pass
And a guy with a gut hanging around like a jackass

It’s such a witty observation, but it’s so real and the song is packed with words that describe the day and the events in detail. This album makes me smile at life’s mundane moments and it makes me incredibly emotional when thinking about family. But above all, it makes me feel, because Kozelek speaks from the heart.


Best Albums of 2014 – #20 Bombay Bicycle Club – So Long, See You Tomorrow


Bombay Bicycle Club sure know how to start an album off. On their 2009 debut LP (I Had The Blue But I Shook Them Loose), opening track “Emergency Contraception Blues” started with a lovely guitar that sputtered into a burst of energy that set the stage for their now long-standing career as power rockers. On 2011’s A Different Kind of Fix, they open with the beautifully organic atmosphere of “How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep.” It grabbed you for the whole album and gave rise to the feeling that you were floating in bliss. But on 2014’s So Long, See You Tomorrow, they might’ve trumped all of the previous opening moments with the divine “Overdone,” one of the best songs of the year.

So Long See You Tomorrow sees Bombay Bicycle Club incorporate samples and electronic elements more-so than ever. The high pitched whirring effect you hear instantly on “Overdone,” is something that gets explored in other variations on So Long. The track also sees the inclusion of a female vocal from Lucy Rose Parton who appears throughout the record and apeared with the band on the entire tour. So you could say that this is a re-invention of sorts for the band. Or you can looks at it as I do, as an experimentation…something frontman Jack Steadman has led before. Like on 2010 LP Flaws, that saw the band scaling back their excitable approach into something more subdued…like a full-band playing a singer-songwriter’s library. Whether that worked or not is debateable.

But where Flaws might have missed the mark, So Long See You Tomorrow is a highly successful experiment. It peaked at #1 on the UK charts and marked a turning point for the band, to where they’re beginning to cement themselves as a major English pop rock act, following in the foot-steps of bands like Arctic Monkeys and Kaiser Chiefs. This effort from Bombay Bikes is what a good pop rock release should sound like: A coherent confluence of traditional instruments with tasteful digital qualities. And rather than sapping a good band of good songwriting (like a lot of big time releases often do), this record has a distinct creative substance that makes it catchy, yet still cool enough to feel like Steadman and company aren’t holding anything back musically. Enjoy.