After two minutes of gorgeous instrumental dips and swells, Jordan Lee introduces himself to you in “Strong River” by singing, “I clear my mind of joy and sorrow.” It is almost as if he is inviting you too to clear your mind of excess emotion before engaging in the next half hour of music on Love’s Crushing Diamond, the full-length debut from his songwriting project, Mutual Benefit.
Comprised of seven expansive, kaleidoscopic baroque-folk songs, the album almost lulls you into a state of blissful hypnosis before you even realize just how good it is.
First self-released by Lee in October, Love’s Crushing Diamond, has quickly gained traction in the music world. Its seven songs, delicate but endlessly optimistic, reward you with every return listen.
Lee’s beautiful, emotive voice is constantly enshrouded in a warm sonic palette of strings, piano, and light percussion. In his lyrics, Lee shows himself to be reserved and occasionally frustrated, but always looking toward the uncertainty of the future with a bright outlook.
He is almost naïve in his relentless pursuit of stability in a world that never wants to relinquish it to him; but he isn’t optimistic or delicate to the point of being coy. He strikes the perfect balance between reality and the unattainable in his vocals and lyrics; and the arrangements follow him flawlessly every step of the way.
“Golden Wake,” anchored by a simple, upbeat drum machine, is a brilliant highlight. Lee sings of quitting his job and being drowned in a sense of emotional emptiness. The dichotomy of Lee’s uncertainty and listlessness with the reassurance of the song’s impeccable melody is fantastic.
Listen to “Golden Wake.”
“Advanced Falconry,” more slow and resigned, is similarly gorgeous. The songs on Love’s Crushing Diamond, have a wonderful habit of stating their melodies early with vocals or guitar, then letting the strings restate it towards the song’s conclusion. The restatements give the songs all the more gravity and power, enabling them to hit home with incredible ease.
Here’s the brand new video for “Advanced Falconry.”
“Strong Swimmer” closes the album on an eerily wonderful note. A breathtaking, slow waltz revolving around a central banjo riff; it almost sounds like a modern update on an old Civil War folk ballad.
Love’s Crushing Diamond, doesn’t have the sky-high stature or established status of other year-end favorites like Kanye West’s Yeezus, or Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, but it deserves just as much recognition. It is an album that takes risks in its own, understated way, and delivers on every promise that it hints at.
More than anything, it doesn’t really sound like anything else that’s out there. So if you found little to get excited about in the landscape of new music this year, check this record out. It’s a uniquely underdog success story; an album that is at once both organic and homespun, but is possessed of an almost otherworldly beauty.
Upcoming tour dates for Mutual Benefit:
Sat. Dec. 14 - Brooklyn, NY @ Converse Rubber Tracks (130 Hope St.) w/ Waxahatchee
Mon. Jan. 13 - Boston, MA @ Great Scott
Tue. Jan. 14 - Montreal, QC @ Il Motore
Wed. Jan. 15 - Toronto, ON @ Drake Underground
Thu. Jan. 16 - Grand Rapids, MI @ The Bird House
Fri. Jan. 17 - Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall (Tomorrow Never Knows)
Sat. Jan. 18 - Minneapolis, MN @ Turf Club
Tue. Jan. 21 - Vancouver, BC @ The Cobalt
Wed. Jan. 22 - Seattle, WA @ Barboza
Thu. Jan. 23 - Portland, OR @ Bunk Bar
Sat. Jan. 25 - San Francisco, CA @ Rickshaw Stop
Sun. Jan. 26 - San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar
Tue. Jan. 28 - Los Angeles, CA @ Centre for the Arts - Eagle Rock
Wed. Jan. 29 - Phoenix, AZ @ Rhythm Room
Fri. Jan. 31 - Austin, TX @ The Mohawk
Sat. Feb. 1 - Houston, TX @ Fitzgeralds (downstairs)
Mon. Feb. 3 - Atlanta, GA @ The Earl
Tue. Feb. 4 - Chapel Hill, NC @ Local 506
Wed. Feb. 5 - Washington, DC @ Black Cat
Thu. Feb. 6 - Philadelphia, PA @ Boot & Saddle
Fri. Feb. 7 - New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
Sat. Feb. 8 - Brooklyn, NY @ Rough Trade
Wed. Feb. 25 - Berlin, DE @ Berghain Kantine
Wed. Feb. 26 - Copenhagen, DK @ Vega Bar
Thu. Feb. 27 - Hamburg, DE @ Molotow Bar
Sun. March 2 - Brussels, BE @ Botanique (Witloofbar)
Mon. March 3 - Paris, FR @ Point Ephemere
Tue. March 4 - London, UK @ St. John's Church
Find out more at http://mutualbenefit.bandcamp.com
Jackson Maxwell is a freshman at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is double majoring in history and journalism. He is a staff writer for the Massachusetts Daily Collegian and has his own music blog entitled “Two Dudes, Two Computers” with his friend Zach Newman. You can follow him here at twodudestwocomputers.tumblr.com/ or http://themotorcade.tumblr.com/