LOVE’S CRUSHING DIAMOND
You might have seen this album on some magazine’s year-end list of overlooked albums from 2013. And in the instance of “Love’s Crushing Diamond,” a spot on those lists is much deserved. After its digital release in October, the album garnered significant recognition in the indiesphere and was subsequently released by Other Music Recording Co. on CD Dec. 13. A vinyl release is set for Jan. 7.
Mutual Benefit is Jordan Lee, pop experimentalist and Midwest transplant currently based in Brooklyn via Boston. Not one to stay in one location for an extended amount of time, Lee features a sprawling network of friends and collaborators from all over the United States for his LP.
Lee’s debut full-length — recorded on the road and at various spots in Boston, St. Louis, and Austin, Texas — deals with themes of existentialism, transience, and togetherness that come through as tension between the expansive musical composition and the penetratingly self-reflective lyrics. Despite comparisons to Bon Iver and Sufjan Stevens, Lee creates folky, orchestral, synth-pop soundscapes that are uniquely his own. Where similar music can sound overproduced, Mutual Benefit has an organic, intuitive quality, more like a hearth-side jam session with friends in a woodsy cabin.
The songs balance elegant string arrangements and piano riffs with buzzing electric guitar, DIY-percussion, and sound effects that range from the soft murmur of a babbling brook to flicks of lighters and cracks of cans. And Lee’s soft but sincere voice offers hope after heartbreak set to humming synthesizers on the second track, “Golden Wake.” Slow, jangly, and violin-driven, “Advanced Falconry” is a nostalgic rumination on an elusive love. On “ ‘Let’s Play’/Statue of a Man,” Lee gives a reverential nod to his Midwest roots as he passes through a dusty mining town in a train car. Accompanied by female falsetto hamonies, he reminds us, “there’s always love/ whether tattered, strained, or torn.”
ESSENTIAL “Advanced Falconry”
Mutual Benefit plays at Great Scott in Allston on Jan.13.
Steph Hiltz can be reached at email@example.com