Mutual Benefit’s debut LP, Love’s Crushing Diamond, is beautiful. It’s a simple, sunbathed collection of tracks that – to be completely honest- took us entirely by surprise.

a4241493582_10This folk album is warm and earnest and a bit slow, entirely unlike the rollicking folk pop that finds its way onto top 40 playlists all over. The songs on this album often start after a good fifteen seconds of fooling around and giggling, or after what seems like a sort of coalescing of separate sounds; on “Let’s Play’ / Statue of a Man”, a drummer gives a few taps while a keyboard plinks about aimlessly over what sounds like a children’s toy coming to life. Somebody hiccups and laughs quietly and suddenly every click, plink, and strum is together. This small bit of playfulness makes many of the songs feel quite open ended, like a group of friends sitting down and making something they all love together.

Jordan Lee, the master songwriter behind this album, doesn’t seem to be grappling for attention in the same way that other artists are. There are neither ear worm hooks to get stuck in one’s head, nor foot-stomping choruses to shake stadiums of sweating, dancing people. Instead, Lee has crafted something that flows easily and joyfully and quietly. I think much of this album’s power lies in the sentimentality of the listener. If one has ever felt a pining for home or old friends or slow, sunny days I think that person will find much to love in this music.

Devonté Hynes- the man behind Blood Orange- seems to be restless. Prior to Cupid Deluxe, he recorded five albums underBlood-Orange-Cupid-Deluxe three different groups.  He has written or produced songs for Sky Ferreira, Florence and the Machine, Theophilus London, and Britney Spears. Despite his eclectic musical past, Hynes newest album is incredibly focused and cohesive.

At the moment, many indie rockers seem infatuated with recreating the sounds of the 1980s, and Blood Orange is no exception. Every track is a swirl of R&B, new age beats, and vocals provided by either Hynes himself or one of the many guests he brought along to help him articulate his often mournful sentiments. Caroline Polachek (of Chairlift) and Samantha Urbani sing wet-eyed echoes of Hynes, or duet with each other throughout the album. On “No Right Thing”, Dirty Projectors’ David Longstreth lends his voice to make tight harmonies that glide over the skittering and shaking beats built by producer Clams Casino. Rappers Despot and Skepta make appearances, breaking out of the traditional 16-bar form, and spin their own nostalgic tales of broken relationships and recording equipment.

There are many guest artists on this album with their own voices. And like a conductor with an orchestra, Hynes carefully crafts a single space for all his voices to inhabit. Whether that be the head-nodding album opener “Chamakay”, or “High Street” that races through memories of a newly successful artist, all the tracks on Cupid Deluxe mutter or shout proclamations of heartbreak or loneliness or emancipation from comfort. Hynes has gazed inside himself and collected his fears and sadness to create something meaningful. With this album, Hynes leads us through a world of alienation and struggle that we would have otherwise missed.

 

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