Exclaim!'s Best of 2014: Top 20 Pop & Rock Albums, Part One

12. Sun Kil Moon
(Caldo Verde)

It's hard to talk about Mark Kozelek in 2014 without mentioning the cantankerous elephant in the room. Although Kozelek's candid opinions on the state of "hillbillies" and beer-commercial rock divided the public into two camps — those who found Kozelek kinda humorous and those who found him to be a "total douche" — pretty much everyone can agree on one thing: Benji is an album like no other. Starting with 2012's Among the Leaves, Kozelek began to abandon the "moon-in-June" musings of his earlier lyrics, focusing instead on unfiltered thoughts and almost-verbatim recollections of his experiences with life, heartbreak, malaise, death and Ben Gibbard.

After listening to Kozelek sing, in such direct but striking terms, of his second cousin and uncle (who both died in separate aerosol can-related accidents) or the Sandy Hook School shootings, it feels almost antithetical to move on to the flowery parables of acts like Fleet Foxes or Bon Iver. Like a Von Trier or Pasolini film, Benji is art at its heaviest, delivered by a man who has spent the past 12 months making one thing crystal clear: he doesn't give a flying fuck what you think of him. (Daniel Sylvester)