Skip a Sinking Stone, the new album by Mutual Benefit (aka Jordan Lee) is a two-part meditation on impermanence that also acts as a portrait of growing up. Mutual Benefit’s work has been praised as being vulnerable and warmhearted. This new album, his debut for Mom+Pop, has a similar sensibility, patiently built from carefully chosen lines illustrated by lush astral folk and intricately composed arrangements that manage to appear effortless.
Skip a Sinking Stone takes place after the success of Mutual Benefit’s debut studio full-length, Love’s Crushing Diamond, with Lee settled into a life that passes as steady. The first half of the record, awash in warm string arrangements and hope, is written about the year that followed: Mutual Benefit’s rotating cast of friends and collaborators is touring non-stop, playing professional stages and festivals, and Lee is in love.
The second half of the album finds Lee in New York, in a rare position of having the time and resources to work on the new record full-time. Lee lives and records at the Silent Barn, breaking from his usual nomadic lifestyle to explore staying in one place, reflected musically by a comparative stillness and introspection. However, New York life presents another kind of unreality: one colored by growing depression, a downturn in the relationship, and a city in turmoil, the atmosphere heavy with grief and anger in the wake of the Eric Garner verdict.
“I kept coming back to how nice that was, throwing these stones against the water,” says Lee. “I thought it was a fitting metaphor for the endeavors I have in my life—sometimes they work out and sometimes they don’t. I think it’s a good exercise in accepting impermanence and failure and these things that are constant, and yet the activity of skipping stones is really relaxing and beautiful.” Each stone ultimately sinks, but, as Lee sings on the album’s zenith, as the cycle ends and repeats again, all we can do is maintain the hope that it’s “Not For Nothing.”
Mutual Benefit album "Skip A Sinking Stone"