Review: Mutual Benefit – Skip a Sinking Stone

National Music Reviews

Mutual Benefit

Skip a Sinking Stone

Transgressive Records

Street: 05.20

Mutual Benefit = Father John Misty + Radical Face

Remember the first time you heard Iron & Wine or Bon Iver? There are those musicians who become ubiquitous for the feelings they evoke, and no matter how many years later, you’ll put it on and remember an exact moment in the summer of 2008 when you were wearing a v-neck t-shirt and listening to “Skinny Love.” Perhaps it’s too early to say, but Skip a Sinking Stone could be woven into your 2016: a soft and lush album that reminds you of cherry blossoms and driving with your window down and learning to move on.

It seems a great injustice to categorize Skip a Sinking Stone as mere “indie folk,” for it is an illustrious, thoughtful and complex collection of songs. In his sophomore release, Jordan Lee has let go of resentment and is beginning to resign himself to the idea of happiness. The musical colors are deliberately peachy and slightly warm, as if he’s pulled open the curtains in a dark room and the light is beginning to creep in. Lee explores shadows and luminosity in the same breath—not to point out their differences, but to reveal their similarities.

The title track moves from stagnant and simple piano to a swelling triumph that comes promptly after he shares, “I’m so afraid to feel this way again / But I let you in.” This is no coincidence, as he highlights the significance of accepting the possibility of pain and choosing to continue forth. The space is filled with a swarm of slightly electronic bells and chimes, followed by a dizzying and beautiful symphonic string explosion. It’s a pivotal and heartaching moment in the album, and you feel yourself making it through to the other side as he does. 

In “Closer, Still,” Lee hints at a budding, unadulterated romance as he sings about “places only we know.” The twinkling vocals and guitar remind one of the great, giddy unknowns that come with the beginnings of a love affair, the talking about everything and nothing for hours on end. The pace slows in “Lost Dreamers,” as Lee seems captivated in a willful suspension of doubt. Swirled in strings and touches of bells, we hear this: “If we get lost in our dreams / Wasn’t it worth all we’ve seen?”

“Getting Gone” seems to carry us to a transitional phase, one of traveling with a heavy mind. It’s easy to get swept up in the organ-esque keys and swirling strings as Lee reminds us, “If there’s one thing that I know / It’s that all good times go / And the hard times too.” The acoustic guitar that follows in “Not for Nothing” feels especially intimate as Lee delves into an understated yet piercing ballad about leaving and not being afraid to come back. He muses, “Home is closer every day / And just a little past the haze.”

Skip a Sinking Stone is a journey through the seasons of the mind, with Lee as our wise and sincere tour guide. Through insecurities and fears, he delicately points us towards tranquility—or, at least as much tranquility as one can truly expect to find in life. If there’s one message that seems to shout through his softness, it’s that all you can do is embrace the road that you’re on. –Kia McGinnis