An album of two distinct halves, ‘Skip A Sinking Stone’ is made for extended listening sessions, flipping the sides over on a record. Its first half, taking place in the year that proceed Mutual Benefit’s debut LP, finds Jordan Lee in what could be considered a settled life – something manifested in its breezy instrumentation and major key meanderings. The second half however sees Lee in New York, gifted with having the time to work on the new record full-time, but dogged by a growing depression, and a downturn in the relationship that delicately colours the first half.
The shift is subtle, but still noticeable. Lead single ‘Not for Nothing’ slides effortlessly in to ‘Nocturne’, an understated instrumental track comprised of little more than field recordings and the peaks and troughs of its organic, progressively discordant string arrangements.
That doesn’t mean to say the latter half of the record is without melody. Far from it. But the rich swells of optimism that characterised earlier cuts such as ‘Skipping Stones’ or ‘Lost Dreamers’ have been replaced with a yearning melancholy. ‘City Sirens’ for instance, captures the fraught atmosphere of New York in the wake of the Eric Garner verdict, while album closer ‘The Hereafter’ plays out like a microcosm of the album itself; a dichotomy of fragile optimism and resigned realism.
‘Not For Nothing’
‘Skip A Sinking Stone’ depicts certain periods in Lee’s life, but it also meditates on transience, and the inevitable act of growing up. Ironic, given that the record’s first half, itself a metaphor for a care-free youth, is also the most ephemeral. It’s not until the more downtrodden latter half and a period of relative stillness for Lee, that the record really takes root.
Certainly a step in a more mature direction for Mutual Benefit, ‘Skip A Sinking Stone’ is a darker and more considered effort than its predecessor. And though let down somewhat by a fleeting first half, the sombre melodies and introspection of the latter manage to make amends.