To my ears, the best metal and rap albums of 2014 were Sun Kil Moon's Benji. Of course, no one would classify Mark Kozelek's latest singer-songwriter effort as either genre. But consider this: Benji is emotionally brutal like the best hard rock and dazzling in its wordplay like the finest hip-hop.
A dizzying onslaught of austere arrangements and twisty panic attacks, Benji has so many words on its 11 tracks, so many stories it's anxious to tell. Recalling lost loves, his bad back, the parents he deeply loves, his difficult friendship with Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard, Kozelek spews narratives all over the album, but the specificity of his memoiristic tales makes them oddly universal. Aging, failure, family: They're at the heart of Benji, and we can all relate.
"Richard Ramirez Died Today of Natural Causes" is about the notorious serial killer but, in typical Benji fashion, it's about a lot of other things, too. I can't even imagine what it would sound like coming out of Jay Z's mouth.