Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “Golden Wake” by Mutual Benefit from the 2013 album Love’s Crushing Diamond on Other Music Recording Co.
Written in St. Louis, recorded in Austin, and released in Boston, the now Brooklyn-based musician Jordan Lee records baroque folk music that embraces both melancholic and joyous tones in its crystalline arrangements. Supported by a revolving cast of musicians from the beginning, Lee’s career as Mutual Benefit started in 2009, when he released his first home cassette recordings online. Further bedroom releases followed, and by 2011, Lee had assembled a group of musicians to play his songs live. Initially released online before being picked up by Other Music, Lee’s full-length debut Love’s Crushing Diamond won lavish praise from a slew of online critical outlets, pushing his shows from basements and living rooms into actual venues. And for good reason too: packed with a surprisingly high amount of baroque elements for a musician who cut his teeth on a quintessentially lo-fi medium, Love’s Crushing Diamond eschews the more rustic, percussive tendencies that run so strongly in most modern folk rock for something more immediately beautiful. (Think Five Leaves Left-era Nick Drake and Seven Swans-era Sufjan Stevens.) “Golden Wake”, the album’s second track, finds Lee meditating in the early hours of the day, reflecting with the regret of times past (“and in the water I could see/a piece of what you broke in me”) before opting for the promise of a new day (“in these holy empty hours...you’re not meant to be afraid”). A brisk pace and echoing piano keep his introspection from descending into navel gazing, but as the final melodic synth lines fade out into the album’s next track, there’s a feeling that, despite traveling all over the country just to make the album, Lee’s journey is only beginning.
Mutual Benefit will be on tour behind Love’s Crushing Diamond throughout the year, and they’ll stop in Seattle on Wednesday, January 22nd, playing live on KEXP at 1PM and playing Barboza that night. Get tickets and information about that 21+ show here, keep up with the band on their Bandcamp and Facebook, and watch the video for “Golden Wake” below.