Falling in love with Mutual Benefit’s debut full-length, Love’s Crushing Diamond, isn’t easy. Opener “Strong River” only unfolds after two minutes of meandering guitar, clinking wind chimes and found-sound nuggets, with Jordan Lee’s subdued vocals straining to rise above the instrumental din. But lush atmospherics, gentle orchestral arrangements and baroque-folk pitter-patter eventually come into focus on songs like “Golden Wake,” “Advanced Falconery” and “That Light That’s Blinding,” blossoming like rare flowers in brilliant, once-a-decade bloom. Like most of the album’s seven tracks, “Let’s Play/Statue of a Man” begins ambivalently before locking into a tender pop-informed groove. Yet it’s seven-minute album closer “Strong Swimmer” that proves the worth of Love’s Crushing Diamond: Swooning strings, a plucky banjo riff, angelic vocal harmonies and earthy percussion add up to a longshot song-of-the-year contender. Give Mutual Benefit the patience it deserves – it might take a while, but you won’t be disappointed.
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