Mutual Benefit a Revelation with “Skip a Sinking Stone”

20 Jul

It’s a little embarrassing — just a little — to only now be discovering a singer-songwriter named Jordan Lee, who records under the moniker of Mutual Benefit. That’s because Lee has been around since at least 2009 and has released more than a half dozen albums and EPs. His most recent LP, 2013’s Love’s Crushing Diamond, earned much critical praise — including “best new music” from Pitchfork and Stereogum’s “Band to Watch.”

But really, rather than feeling too embarrassed, I regard these unexpected revelations as one of the perks of the job — if being a college DJ were actually a job. Which it’s most definitely not.

Lee’s latest album, Skip a Sinking Stone, is a remarkable musical experience. The indie baroque pop is pristine and precise, and the melodies wash over you like a dreamy waterfall. You’ll want to tilt your head back and relax in the refreshing, rainbow-colored mist as it cascades down from above.

The title track, “Skipping Stones,” could be almost a religious experience. The harmonized vocals swell and soar skyward, taking on a distinctly gospel-like quality, thanks to the richness of the backing vocals. The closest thing I can liken the song to is Phosphorescent’s “Sun, Arise!” invocation from Muchacho. A full orchestra embraces the composition in several places, before the song quiets as it flows into track 3, “Closer, Still” — a short, simple track with a harp-like melody.

Track 4, “Lost Dreamers,” is the first single from Skip a Sinking Stone. It ambles comfortably along through a dreamy soundscape as it confronts the album’s theme head-on, at one point asking, “And if we get lost in a dream/Wasn’t it worth all we sing?” The track also has a very nice flute solo by session musician, Noah Klein.

Track 6, “Not for Nothing,” is an exquisite piano ballad — at once bittersweet and life affirming. We’ve all had intensely felt relationships, where you recognize that life is bringing the two of you together, but only for a few brief moments. Still, you know you’ll never forget those times as long as you live.

Finally, a review of an album such as this wouldn’t be complete without spending a few lines on how it ends. Track 12’s “The Hereafter” certainly addresses a topic we all think about. On Lee’s Skip a Sinking Stone,” the song is one more dream to turn over carefully in your hand and ponder. What happens when the stone you skip throughout your life ultimately sinks? This is what Lee is asking as he wraps up this unique indie folk experience that will make you want to listen over and over again.


One other note: I couldn’t end this review without a brief thank you to my regular readers who may have wondered what happened to my blog. After writing almost one review a week for the past two years, it simply became difficult to keep up the pace. But rest assured — whenever I discover new indie pop, rock or folk that I think you’ll love, I’ll post a blog sharing my impressions of it. To be notified of when I’ve posted something new, please add your email address and click Follow. And thanks so much for spending a little of your time with my reviews.



2 Responses to “Mutual Benefit a Revelation with “Skip a Sinking Stone””

  1. e11esvenski July 22, 2016 at 4:50 pm #

    So So Happy to hear you back on KZSU this morning, FtTT!

    • francisdickerson July 24, 2016 at 3:09 pm #

      Really glad to be back playing some great music and sharing a few stories about my time away. Thanks for your note!

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