Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: Mutual Benefit w/ Teen Mom @ Black Cat — 2/5/14

Jordon Lee (Photo: Whitney Lee)

Jordon Lee (Photo: Whitney Lee)

Wry and laidback, Jordon Lee brought a six-person line-up in Mutual Benefit to a sold out stage Wednesday to the Black Cat, where he promptly soothed and entranced the audience with wistful songs of letting go.

Lee himself said most of his songs are about “death, dying, ghouls, spooky stuff and hobgoblins.” And there is indeed a haunted ethereal sound to his folk music, thanks in great part to the violin and synthesizer contributions to their arrangements but also to Lee’s strong and steady singing voice, wonderfully full of loss.

Loss usually involves an inability to connect or communicate with the opposite sex. In the refrain in “Advanced Falconry,” for example, Lee sings, “And she talks softly/Sees through me/Says something/I can’t hear it/But I won’t forget/The way she flies.” Images of a bird (or woman) flying away or being stranded on a desert island serve as typical metaphors in Mutual Benefit’s songs.

The sorrowful and sweet violin from Jake Falby added a great deal of emotion to the songs. And Jordon Lee’s sister Whitney Lee was a lovely surprise on the synthesizer, which added a lot more complexity to the songs than I might have anticipated.

Indeed, the six-member band–two guitars, bass, drum, violin and synth–sounded even more expansive than its ingredients might suggest, even as they crowded onto the Cat’s small back stage. It will be exciting to see where Lee takes his sound after his debut album, Love’s Crushing Diamond, as he has demonstrated an understanding of how well this mix of instruments can work together.

DC fuzz pop trio Teen Mom opened for Mutual Benefit. None of the three men in the band are underage or mothers, despite their quirky name, but they were full of pleasant, sunny odes to self-awareness, perhaps? Their sound was pleasantly buoyant with not enough feedback to really be noisepop and not enough complexity to be psychedelic.

Band drummer Sean Dalby set the tempo and affably bantered between songs, which come from several EPs the band has issued over the past 14 months or so. (They appear to like to give these albums names that somehow personify them like “Mean Tom” and “Gilly.”) A lot of their songs seem nostalgically reflective: “Say Anything,” a song from the recent Gilly, dwells on changes in feelings or perhaps perceptions between two people. The catchy “I Wanna Go Out” celebrates the simple joy of getting out.

Mutual Benefit play two shows in New York City this weekend — tonight at Mercury Lounge and tomorrow at Rough Trade — to wrap up their tour. Catch their next performance for some innovative synth folk.