Mutual Benefit : Skip a Sinking Stone

Mutual Benefit Skip a Sinking Stone

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Skip a Sinking Stone, the sophomore album from Bostonian Jordan Lee, is every bit as natural and contemplative as the title suggests. Lee spoke in a press release about how the title was an appropriate metaphor for the endeavors in his life, that although stones always end up sinking, the act of skipping stones remains “relaxing and beautiful.” The sides of the record host different themes, each introduced by instrumental tracks “Madrugada” and “Nocturne,” morning and night.

Side A shares more likeness to Mutual Benefit’s 2013 debut album Love’s Crushing Diamond with tales of a nomadic lifestyle, disowning technology, and falling in love. In “Skipping Stones,” Lee reveals his fear for falling in love again as he admits, “I know how it ends,” but despite ominous foreshadowing the proceeding four songs carry on with warmth and positivity. The accompanying baroque-inspired orchestral arrangements remain rich without ever carrying a hint of overindulgence or grandeur.

Side B takes us into a darker side of Lee’s mind, though amidst a crumbling relationship and ensuing depression, the somber chords and quiet confessions still provide surprising comfort. Even in the stark and chilling “Many Returns” which recounts the helplessness felt after the breakup, he urges to “believe the light inside of you,” advice directed more towards himself than at the listener. Slow contemplative albums often make the mistake of front loading their stronger tracks, but Skip a Sinking Stone saves two of its best for last. “Fire Escape” uses what sounds like vocal looping to create an intimate atmosphere much like Bon Iver’s “Heavenly Father,” but the background static and fret squeaks take the intimacy a step further. The heaviest hitting line of the album comes here as Lee quietly sings “I remember something you told me / That nothing worth it is ever easy.” The closing track “The Hereafter” ties up the album’s metaphor appropriately with graceful repetition, mimicking the act the lyrics describe of tossing stone after stone into a quiet pond, a peaceful mantra to a complicated life.

Much of Skip a Sinking Stone sounds like it could have been recorded in the same session as Love’s Crushing Diamond, but Lee isn’t concerned with creating something new per se—he wants to do it right. Every ounce of Skip a Sinking Stone is laced with authenticity and care. The abundance of romanticized imagery about “swaying trees” and “moonlit skies” always come back to illustrate an introspective thought or are fairly juxtaposed with a more sour reality like “avoiding trash on the sidewalk.” Even in simple statements like “all good times go,” lines we’ve heard a hundred times, Lee sings them with such raw sincerity that it feels like hearing it for the first time. Skip a Sinking Stone is an album that will age well, with each additional listen providing new lines that resonate and new pockets of a soundscapes to get lost.

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