There’s no band I can think of whose output can be likened to Mutual’s Benefit’s brand of orchestral folk. Love’s Crushing Diamond (2013) and To Skip a Sinking Stone (2016) are both dazzlingly gorgeous albums, brimming with swelling strings, sliding keyboards, fireside guitars, and contemplative, somewhat transcendentalist lyrics. If any band knows how to set a song, it’s Mutual Benefit.
The other day on the fire escape
When the outside world was too much to take
Staying up for the sunrise
Pastel hues on the distant skyline
Walking down our old avenue
The murals changed and so have you
Avoiding trash on the sidewalk
Humming songs while I find the train stop
And underground on the JMZ
Where subway rats run behind beams
I remember something you told me
That nothing worth it is ever easy
I brought you into my daydream
But wasn’t ready for you to wake me
One of the most impressive aspects of band leader Jordan Lee’s lyrical prowess, is his ability to present ideas that could have easily been cloying clichés in a unique and evocative manner. I’ll provide more examples in posts to come, but in this song, the phrase “I brought you into my daydream/ But wasn’t ready for you to wake me,” comes to mind. Somehow Lee manages to express this seemingly hackneyed sentiment in lines that feel wholly original. The music mirrors this daring simplicity, sucking the listener into a comfortably claustrophobic atmosphere through the use of constantly repeating vocal and instrumental figures swimming in slowly building ambient tones. An airy vocal drone wavers above, resembling the call of a mourning dove drifting from the treetops. Rising from below, an instrumental drone drags along like chugging subway trains. Sandwiched between these undulating motifs, Lee’s delicate vocals provide insight into a soul desperate to escape the clutches of a toxic relationship and the suffocation of city life. Something I’m sure we can all relate to now and again.
Give it a listen. And don’t forget to share what this song means to you in the comments below!