A slow month.
Mutual Benefit//Love’s Crushing Diamond
People singing sadly over pretty violins and gentle, folksy guitar is about the closest music has to a cheat code. On Love Crushing’s Diamond, Mutual Benefit, a side-project by ‘wanderer’ Jordan Lee and his friends, exploits this musical free pass to the fullest extent. Love’s Crushing Diamond is the most stupidly pretty album of the year, and one of the best too.
Opening with the discordant, windswept strings and jangling bells of Strong River, the elements eventually coalesce over Lee’s falsetto as he softly sings “I clear my mind of joy and sorrow, the river doesn’t know tomorrow…the river only knows to carry on”. The start is an indication of what the album’s all about – folksy and artsy, downbeat and uplifting, relentlessly lulling. The nature of the album is almost akin to a river in how it gently eases the listener along with an easy, soothing current of simple, earthy melodies.
Just as an experience Love’s Crushing Diamond is among the most quietly satisfying of the year, but Lee’s mournful, elegiac lyrics propel it into something truly special. Few albums have the kind of emotional depth and variety seen here on songs like Advanced Falconry – among the finest of the year – as Lee balances despairing romance with snippets of quiet hope: “stare into the void, and see a friendly face”. Although at times a slow, measured, and even occasionally dirge-like affair, Love’s Crushing Diamond steers clear of sinking into a mire of despair. The moments of loss are always tempered by hope, and the result is a profoundly invigorating album; one where, by the end of every listen, you inevitably find yourself struck by its power to move.
This sounds awfully pretentious and gushing, but that’s stirred by an album that’s a truly powerful, almost meditative experience. As the album eases to a close on Strong Swimmer, a standout among standouts along with Advanced Falconry, there’s a sense of completeness, and not just in a musical – yes this should end now – sense, but also an emotional one. As Lee returns to the river of the first song, a river that flows through the whole album, it is now tinged by the tragedy of the song’s preceding six minutes. But, rather than leave the album on a note of regret and loss, he instead frames it around perseverance and hope. He knows the river has learnt to forget.
Jesus that got out of hand.
Strong Swimmer, Advanced Falconry, The Light That’s Blinding