Skip a Sinking Stone, the new record from Mutual Benefit, is as melodic and intricate an album as we’ve seen in 2016 so far. It’s also a testament to the influence of location in music, as frontman Jordan Lee found himself tremendously affected by the two distinct spaces in which he wrote the record.
“A lot of it had been recorded in Brooklyn, but to be able to go to the woods for a while and just isolate ourselves and get in this routine of recording all day and taking walks and playing chess and drinking whiskey was a really good couple weeks,” Lee explained. “A lot of the string parts were finished up there.”
The beginning captured his idyllic recording sessions with his band in New Hampshire. The record’s second half, which is slower and more sullen, was informed by his cramped lifestyle in Brooklyn.
“Side A is idealistic escapism, I wanted Side B to be more the type of escapism where you retreat into your own brain,” he said.
Indeed, the first half sounds like it was written by the light of fireflies in mason jars. It’s endearing and ornate, a weave of soft guitars, strings and percussion that mesh together beautifully. Among the early highlights are the starry-eyed “Lost Dreamers” and galloping single “Not For Nothing.”
As Skip a Sinking Stone progresses though, it gradually retreats into itself, becoming both more self-aware and grounded in our sometimes bleak reality. Songs like “Many Returns” and “Slow March” are delicate and lilting, hinging on Lee’s soft vocals.
Sandwiched amongst these tracks is also Mutual Benefit’s first dive into more conscious music: the police brutality-deriding “City Sirens.” It’s a powerful, dramatic outburst that signals an intriguing potential direction for Lee and his band that also matches the carefully crafted sound of the rest of the record.
“I feel pretty silly being a white dude that’s been given a megaphone when there’s just so many other types of voices that I think have a lot more interesting things to say right now than I do,” Lee said of the track. “So that was my first step trying to take a thing that I really care about and try to fit it into the aesthetic of the band.”
Lee said that writing the song and capturing the correct perspective was a difficult process, but one he would like to continue doing.
“It was a really strange process and I want to keep going in that direction and being true to the feelings that I have and using the platform that I’m given,” he explained.
Overall, Skip a Sinking Stone is a clear sign of growth for Lee and Mutual Benefit, and with a national tour underway and a cover record coming as part of Turntable Kitchen’s “Sounds Delicious” project, there will be plenty more opportunities for the band to keep honing its message and expanding its sound.
Mutual Benefit will be at DC9 Monday night, June 20th, with Florist. For more information click here.