It's been too long since Jordan Lee, who performs as Mutual Benefit, has released an album; his last one came out in 2013. This month sees the release of Skip a Sinking Stone, his great new LP, which is out via Mom + Pop this week. We're selling it in our store, and we reached out to Lee for him to pick 10 albums he thinks you all should buy. Here's what he had to say:
These are tried and true favorites from my own vinyl collection along with roommates past and present. They are albums that have kept finding their way back onto the turntable no matter what new music seems to come out.
1 Joanna Newsom - Ys
Ys may well be my favorite album of all time. I have listened to it an obscene amount of times and it still gives me the shivers when I newly unpack a previously obscured part of the densely weaved lyrical metaphors years later. If memory serves right, it was the first vinyl record I bought, excitedly spending an early paycheck at Waterloo Records in Austin, TX. The orchestral arrangements and vocal delivery seem to always be in dialogue with each other speaking so even-handedly about subjects too heavy for many lyricists to dare going.
2 Múm - Yesterday Was Dramatic, Today Is OK
This Múm album specifically creates such a unique sonic space. All the glitches and little clicks operate as kind of musical pointillism painting this beautiful, unified picture. When my sister first put it on I had never heard anything like it. I think I love it even more now because the synth sounds are so primitive sounding compared to what electronic musicians can do now but you can still feel this weird optimism coming out of it.
3 Vashti Bunyan - Just Another Diamond Day
I think the story goes that Vashti Bunyan recorded this album in 1969 in the midst of some spirit quest to Wales and then moved to a farm to live out the rest of her life in peace. Fast forward to present times and one of her kids found her record on ebay for a gazillion dollars and it ended up she had developed a cult following. For some reason that story makes perfect sense to me. Just Another Diamond Day really does feel like an artifact of both the amazing British folk scene in the late 60's and Vashti's own journey trying to find peace.
4 Lau Nau - Nuukuu
Nuukuu started a year long rabbit hole of me getting obsessed with weirdo music coming out of Finland, mostly through the amazing Fonal label. I read somewhere that all the sounds on the record are hushed because she didn't want to wake up her newborn baby who was the next room over from her recording space. Before I was lucky enough to start playing with string players this album taught me how the different timbres of the voice can act a lot like a string quartet and that sometimes constraints can add to the magic.
5 Iron & Wine - The Creek Drank The Cradle
For the longest time I couldn't figure out why I loved this album so much. I had just started recording my own silly songs and wanted them to sound just like this, buying a banjo off of eBay and everything. That's when I learned about 4-track recording and the satisfying warmth of tape hiss. There is something about these songs that feels like a warm summer night on someone's porch in the south. I would put it on all the time to try and feel better.
6 Rachel's - Selenography
7 Sounds of the SouthSounds of the South is an anthology field recorded by Alan Lomax. He was basically visiting these various communities right as modernization was starting to make culture more homogenous and documenting the unique music the communities would make. I think his work is an absolute treasure both as a historical record and because the music is so soul-filled and beautiful. These recordings were a timely reminder that now matter how much fancy equipment or songwriting skills you have, at the end of the day it is about putting a mic in a room where something beautiful is happening.
8 Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou - Emahoy
Emahoy is part 21 of the Ethiopiques series which focuses on all the music coming out of Ethiopia. While many of the other records focus on the more funky, dancable sounds that came out of the region, Tsegue-Maryam plays devastating solo piano music. She had a really tough life, fleeing from awful conditions more times than once, and the way she plays piano really reflects that. It is inflected with the unique scales of East Africa along with European- style piano playing to make an incredibly unique album.
9 OOIOO - TaigaI definitely had a WTF moment when I first heard the opening track off this album. OOIOO shares the same scene and some of the same members as the seminal Japanese noise rock band, Boredoms. Now I can't get enough of it though. It is occupies some strange space between noise, jazz, and prog? I really don't know how to describe it other than to say that it is amazing.