Monday, April 21, 2008

Ben Lee - Awake is the New Sleep

This morning I was thinking about what album I would post. I decided to let my iPod figure it out so I put it on album shuffle. I was hoping it wouldn't land on something with which I was only vaguely familiar and as luck would have it, I ended up with this.

Ben Lee doesn't need much of an introduction. He's from Australia, he started Noise Addict with some friends when he was only 13 and got signed to Grand Royal. Since then he's dated Claire Danes and recorded "Cigarettes Will Kill You" among many other fine, fine (and simply okay) songs.

Awake is the New Sleep is Lee's fifth, and quite possibly best, album. It was produced by Brad Wood, who produced pretty much half of the albums in your music collection, you just don't know it. (Steve Albini did the other half.) It might also be worth mentioning that he got a little help from Jason Schwartzman, Jenny Lewis, and Har Mar Superstar along the way.

I won't waste much space comparing Ben Lee to other artists. He's an indie-style singer-songwriter. We all know what that's like.

I will say that this sounds exactly like finding out that your secret crush feels the same way about you, and now all you have to do is figure out what to do about it.

This album is pretty much all about that breath you take just before you step into that brand new life with your brand new love...the one that's meant to last. The first track "Whatever It Is" is a call to arms to anyone that is afraid to act on their hearts desires to "just do it, whatever it is". And going into the next track is seems that "it" should be "Gamble Everything for Love". I wouldn't be the first to accuse Lee of thinking he was the new Bob Dylan, but the light reggae flourishes of the second track do indicate a push to be taken as a serious song-writer who will also gamble everything to prove he draws from a wide range of influences. The song that follows, "Begin" indicates that at this point the object of Lee's affections has revealed that she shares the feelings but needs that extra push into a new life they can share. I won't mention his unfortunate "Good Charlotte" name-drop in "Catch My Disease"...but I just did...I'd hate to think that something like being down with Good Charlotte on the radio would cause the girl of Lee's dreams to run to the arms of another but that's where "Apple Candy" finds her.

I can't speak for anyone but my self, but at this point I find myself knee deep in an audio journey through my own life. It's one of those few albums that says exactly what your heart is clamoring to scream to the world. That's why I love this album so much, I've been through all of this. It's nice to relate. And of all the songs, I perhaps relate most to "Ache for You". When he sings "there's no rhyme and there's no reason, you're the secret in the back of my skull", I know what he means. When you love someone so much that it totally consumes you, there is no good reason for it. It's not something you can control, it's just something that you'll eventually have to give into. And I really hate to use the word "cathartic", but I suppose that best describes this song specifically and really this whole album in general. From here on Lee attempts over and over to "find his way to your heart". He admits to falling pretty far on "Get Gotten" a desperate plea to just return the love he wants so badly to give. But "We're All in This Together" finds him accepting the fact that the world isn't about him and his feelings and that he should keep an open heart. Finally, just as he was willing to live and let live she steps fully into his life filling it with "Light" (corny segue)...taking off into an extended 9 minute rock out, I'm going to assume represents his new life beginning. When Lee leaves us on the last track "I'm Willing" we're seeing a man that might be feeling doubts now that he is facing "a dream [he's] had forever", but decides that he is willing to give in this time.

I have to admit that usually I go for music that is a lot more creative or less accessible. This is pop music. Coupled with lyrics that seem to be reading my mind, this becomes something else. It's no wonder that he so often gets overlooked, being too interesting for pop music and too poppy for people who like things with a little more depth. You might like it, or you might not, it might just be too soft for you. Either way try it out.

Hear it HERE.

1 comment:

Tone & Wave said...

...I am very interested in whatever Houston ska you may have (the more obscure the better). There is also another Suspects album ("99 Paid") in the Tone and Wave Myspace blog if you need it.
This is starting out to be a great blog. Not only am I looking forward to the music you'll be posting, but I appreciate your writing as well.