Thunder Follows The Light marks the ninth release by Jordan Lee under the guise of Mutual Benefit. For a little short of a decade, Ohio born and New York based Lee has been deftly crafting experimental pop. Acting as songwriter, producer arranger and multi-instrumentalist. However, his breakout came with 2013’s Love’s Crushing Diamond being named as best new music by Pitchfork and Stereogum’s Band To Watch.
Conceived during a thunderstorm while sat on a New England patio, Lee became transfixed by the time that exists between lightning and thunder. Wondering if the turmoil that exists in the world today, is merely the initial strike of lightning that will be inevitably followed by more thunderous events. Lee said of the writing process:
“While I was writing the record, everywhere I looked, I saw massive societal strain… from human-influenced ecological disasters to an openly white supremacist U.S. president to corporate greed exploiting people’s physical and emotional lives in new ways.”
What immediately strikes you about Thunder Follows The Light is that for a record that addresses so much turmoil, it’s incredibly vulnerable and soothing. With opening Written in Lightning, Lee sings of the storm thats been growing in the world for some time but warm strings build to swaddle you tight. His gentle voice advising us to look out for each other.
The country folk harmonica of New History guides us through a rejection of political revisionism. Serving as a warning that permitting those in power to rewrite the past, leaves us doomed to repeat the struggles that should lay to rest where they belong. Storm Cellar Heart is an ode to taking shelter. However, Shedding Skin reminds us that that from the devastation storms bring, new life emerges. Its morning birdsong leading us into single Come to Pass. The brightness of which cautions us not to be seduced by romanticized visions of the past.
Deep, bluesy chords invoke the sound of thunder while Johanne Swanson of Yohuna joins Lee to duet a beautiful vocal melody on Waves Breaking. A saxophone motif accompanied by riding cymbals culminating in a chaotic crescendo. The piano ballad of No Dominion turns it attention to the storms that can rage within and Mountain’s Shadow uses a tale of driving along North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Parkway to underline that behind peaks of darkness, sunshine exists.
Inspired by one of Aesop’s fables, Nightingale Sings conveys a moral for us to sing not for a King, but for ourselves. Its instruments rising like a tide to sweep us towards the close out of Thunder Follows. A climactic finish to the album that uses organic metaphor to highlight how we all grow stronger by sharing the resources the earth has to offer.
Thunder Follows The Light is a wonderfully arranged album where every note is perfectly placed. One that reminds us that behind the darkness, light exists. Behind destruction, life springs anew. Both in the external and internal world. That this re-genesis is not born out without struggle. That no matter what our perception of who’s struggle that is, we all have our part to play in it.
Thunder Follows The Light is released September 21st on Transgressive Records and can be ordered here.
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