ALBUM OF THE DAY
Album of the Day: Mutual Benefit, “Thunder Follows the Light”
By Allison Hussey · September 27, 2018 Merch for this release:
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Lightning and thunder are so common that it’s easy to take for granted their dramatic majesty—the way the former crackles against a purple sky, or how the latter can sound like the house is coming down around you. On Thunder Follows the Light, Brooklyn’s Jordan Lee, aka Mutual Benefit, takes a decidedly softer turn, using those elements of weather as bookends for songs about reaching for love and comfort. Rather than offering flash-bang pyrotechnics, Lee and his band deliver an earthy, slow-burning LP with a cozy, comforting terroir all its own. 

Lee chronicles his travails in nature with a light, reedy tenor that floats atop his lush arrangements. With its folk-pop core—typically adorned in tasteful layers of strings and saxophone—Thunder Follows the Light strongly recalls Sufjan Stevens’s classic Illinois, if Stevens had chosen to hike the Appalachian Trail rather than study the Prairie State. Indeed, two of Lee’s tracks are Appalachian-adjacent; the sparkling “Mountain’s Shadow” was inspired by North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Parkway, while the gentle, folksier “New History” explores his parents’ roots in Appalachian Ohio.

Throughout the record, Lee connects the need to find internal solace examinations of the natural world around him. He opens “Storm Cellar Heart” with lyrics about waking up early enough to see morning glory flowers bloom because a neighbor told him “that it helps to notice the small things.” Later in the track, he nods to a simple gesture that holds a universal appeal: “When you hold me, it’s so much better / It’s enough to drown out the thunder,” he murmurs.

Lee closes the record with “Thunder Follows,” which rolls along to rhythms that recall the distant rumble of a faraway storm. “Peace is more than just a season coming around again,” he sings, fingerpicked guitar and faint banjo plinks spiraling down around him in a delicate cascade. It’s a reminder that, though finding peace may not be as effortless as the passing of seasons, it can be a lasting presence. You just have to find your own version of it.

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