Release Date: Jul 1, 2014
Record label: Caldo Verde Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Sun Kil Moon’s Benji was released earlier this year to a fanfare of acclaim. It proved yet again how frontman Mark Kozelek can muster as much, if not more, raw emotional power from plaintively plucking notes on his acoustic guitar than a band backed by an entire symphony. It was a record shot through with a sense of strong fragility and lasting mortality, all carried by Kozelek’s sparing instrumentation and modern-day Ecclesiastes lyrics.
Judging by the not-exactly-cryptic title, you’d think Live at Biko was just another in long line of Mark Kozelek solo concert albums, this one recorded at the titular venue in Milan this past April. But it’s actually the greatest collection of deadpan one-liners this side of Steven Wright’s I Have a Pony. For example: “If you’re a guy and you ask me when’s my record coming out on vinyl, I’ll kick the shit out of you.
In recent years former Red House Painters and current Sun Kil Moon front man Mark Kozelek has become a prolific self documentarian, not only in song with his sprawling, minute-detail-heavy epics, but also in the number of releases, live and otherwise, that have cropped up on his Caldo Verde label. Whether operating under his given name, Sun Kil Moon or in collaboration with others, the constant at the center of any of these releases is Kozelek’s inimitable vocal presence, sonorous in tonality, vacillating between sighs and shouts in execution. Facing down middle age, Kozelek has ramped up his musical output, capturing and issuing seemingly every mundane thought that crops up in his mind, framing it contextually and unabashedly autobiographically, and placing it against a backdrop of gently strummed nylon-string guitar.
Live albums aren’t exactly landmark events for Mark Kozelek. He releases one shortly after just about every record he puts out (as Sun Kil Moon or otherwise), and they’re decidedly minimal — usually just him and an acoustic guitar. So, how you feel about his latest, Live at Biko (recorded at the Milanese venue of the same name), largely depends on how you feel about this year’s Benji.