In reading the title Love’s Crushing Diamond, one might expect to hear an album full of screeching metalheads lamenting their mistakes in love. Mutual Benefit’s release is quite the opposite. It is flowy and ethereal and light-as-air and takes the listener on a journey alongside singer Jordan Lee as he sweetly explains his views on life and love.
From the opening track, Lee sets the tone of what to expect: “Strong River” is introduced with the sound of chimes blown together by the wind as the music wanes in and out with various string and woodwind instruments. Lee doesn’t sing until near the end, and when he does, it’s in a calming and soft — albeit a bit shaky — voice. That shakiness only adds to the charm of Lee’s well composed pieces. Lee has admitted to have created some of his earlier music during times when he was under the influence of psychedelics; and while this album has a psychedelic touch to it, it’s equally polished and exemplifies Lee’s professionalism and positive spirit that has evolved since he began making music.
Lee’s lyrics compliment the comforting sound of the instruments. They are overwhelmingly positive, which is pretty rare to come across when delivered in such a soft manner. In “Golden Wake,” he croons, “We weren’t made to be this way/ we weren’t made to be afraid,” after talking about quitting his job and the way his mind wanders. He then sings of his head and heart joining together to destroy the hold time has on him. Later, in “Let’s Play/ Statue of a Man,” he sings, “There’s always love, even when you think there’s none to give.” Comforting and motivational.
Album standout “Advanced Falconry” consists of the same flowy style as other tracks, but seems to offer a little bit more than the rest, with grand, swelling violins opening the track and plucky banjo and percussion providing support. He sings about a girl who seems to be out of his reach, but he doesn’t mind. He’s content to simply listen to her talk, although he can’t make out what she’s saying.
Many of the tracks feature a female vocalist joining Lee for sweet harmonies. On “The Light That’s Blinding,” they are also accompanied by piano, the addition of which contributes a distinct melody that gives it a different feel overall, while maintaining the calming style prominent on other tracks. Almost every song begins with an instrumental section, which makes for a nice introduction, keeping the flow and providing continuity from track to track, as if no more or no fewer songs are needed.
Closing track, “Strong Swimmer” channels the ocean and waxes metaphorical about overcoming rough waves. Lee previously dedicated a six-track album to the sea, but this song still sounds fresh and admiring of the powerful natural element.
Lee wants to celebrate the mystery and joy that is life, and does it well through this collection of calm, yet upbeat tracks. In a time when synth-heavy music seems to prevail and abound, it is a nice break to hear Lee’s multi-instrumental styling.
Listen to Mutual Benefit’s “Let’s Play/Statue Of A Man” here, via Soundcloud: