Humanity often sways with the irrational. Sustained by daydreams. Nourished by hope and grand expectations. We hang on the fringes of possibility, providing us with the strength to face adversity and accept what cannot be changed. Mutual Benefit’s latest release, Skip A Sinking, graciously shares pieces of humanity and possibility, which flicker like the dragonflies depicted in the album. On Tuesday, June 14, Mutual Benefit will share these pieces with Denver.
Jordan Lee, from the suburbs of Columbus, is the introspective mind behind Mutual Benefit. Press repeatedly prints his describing the project as “the sound of everything making sense, if only for a second.” By transposing the sound of a physical moments over lyrics and compositions depicting that moment, Lee’s unconventional use of field recordings make possible a sort of “hyper-real” listening experience. He finds epiphanies written in inconsequential happenings, and celebrates, through his music, instances that make him excited to be a human being.
After releasing multiple EPs and singles, Lee shared his first full length in October of 2013. Loves Crushing Diamond was a celebrated proclamation of woes, written about hardships the people in his life were facing at the time. The seven songs consult with pain, confusion, and escape. Contradictory to Lee’s early works, which feature simple chords that parallel the beauty in ordinary moments, his latest albums present grander compositions, often veering into the orchestral.
Nearly three years following his debut album, Jordan Lee presents 12 track Skip a Sinking Stone with Mom + Pop Records. The collection features a hoard of musicians whose violas, oboes, cellos, flutes, pianos, and more, magnify the proclamations made in Lee's songs. Lee sites each musician by name, including a Stefan Grabowski, whose contribution is listed as “noise”. Where in previous works Lee juxtaposed essential lyrics with seemingly ordinary, simple sounds, the momentous lines in this album are matched with equally grandiose “noise”, in this case, the sound of every instrument I can name without the help of Siri.
Title track, Skip a Sinking Stone, uses the sinking stone as a metaphor for love and vulnerability. Each time a stone is cast on the water, its thrower expects it to sink to the bottom, because that’s what stones do. Similarly, we enter relationships knowing most likely we will sink. Here lies the funny thing about humans… we skip sinking stones all the time. We are irrational, and that makes us human.
What I love most about this album are the final lines of closing song Hereafter, which allude to the possibility that “light” doesn’t come from the stone skipping into the horizon for all eternity, but in fact, surfaces when we let it sink, “further down / and further down / to murky depth / where light is found”.
Lee’s latest album discusses acceptance, a fitting subject following Loves Crushing Diamond which explores adversity. In time, life's up and downs become custom; a realization Lee puts simply in Getting Gone, “if there’s one thing I know / its that all good times go / and the hard times to”.
These are songs of humanity, humming gently in moments of chaos and indecision. These are songs heard through vexing crowds when anxieties make us feel small. These are songs that hold shaking hands. These are melodies that pierce life’s cacophony. These are, undeniably, songs of possibility.
Cut the cacophony. Skip a sinking stone. See Mutual Benefit at Larimer Lounge this Tuesday, June 14, and explore humanity.