As Mutual Benefit, Brooklyn’s Jordan Lee has grown a sound that’s lush and deeply sympathetic over the course of several years. With a full moat of instrumentalists to surround his lulling voice, he constructs songs that feel like gentle reminders to the self. After taking time to tour following 2013’s breakthrough Love’s Crushing Diamond, he’s poised to release a follow-up, Skip a Sinking Stone—this one a reminder of impermanence and failure.
While the first half of the Skip a Sinking Stone deals with a time Lee was in love and touring constantly, the latter is about living in New York and the subsequent downturn in that love. “The Hereafter” is the final track on the new album, and it marks a resolute comedown. Resolute, but hopeful: Lee says, “The first song on the album is about being scared that things won’t work out and ‘The Hereafter’ is about learning to let go and finding peace in ‘murky depths where light is found’ when they inevitably don’t.”
It’s instantly calming, with descending pentatonics—the sound of a guhzeng, a Chinese zither, that Lee picked up at a friend’s studio. Lee’s voice hangs on a precipice as he asks, “What’s to say when we break / when the skin that was bending melts away?” Piano blooms out into a stirring orchestral arrangement, and with mention of swaying reeds and dragonflies, it feels too ethereal to have its roots in a place as unsanctimonious as Brooklyn, but that’s sort of what Lee’s getting at—there’s light hidden in the darkest of places. He asks, “Can love die / or does it come back and find us every time?” The answer to his question is embedded in the heightened sound that follows, and it’s promising.
Skip a Sinking Stone is out May 20 on Mom+Pop, and Mutual Benefit will be hitting the road again later this month.
Mutual Benefit tour dates
27 Toronto, ON at The Drake Hotel
28 Lansing, MI at Mac’s Bar
30 Pontiac, MI at Pike Room
31 Chicago, IL at Schubas Tavern
01 Minneapolis, MN at 7th Street Entry
05 Seattle, WA at Barboza
06 Portland, OR at Doug Fir Lounge
08 San Francisco, CA at Rickshaw Stop
10 Los Angeles, CA at The Resident
11 San Diego, CA at Casbah
14 Denver, CO at Larimer Lounge
15 Kansas City, MO at The Riot Room
17 St. Louis, MO at The Luminary Center for the Arts
18 Columbus, OH at The Basement
20 Washington, DC at DC9
21 Philadelphia, PA at Boot & Saddle
22 New York, NY at Mercury Lounge
23 Brooklyn, NY at Baby’s All Right
24 Boston, MA at Great Scott