Lush, layered folk-pop with a starry sound –
Skip A Sinking Stone is not an album one would expect to come out of New York City. The follow-up to Mutual Benefit mainstay Jordan Lee’s 2013 album Love’s Crushing Diamond, Skip A Sinking Stone is a double-sided meditation that conjures a new segment in the continuous sketch that is Lee’s journey of growing up, mixed by Brian Deck (The Moon and Antarctica, The Shepherd’s Dog, Ugly Casanova).
Painstakingly crafted using lush orchestral arrangements, a flurry of instruments (including but not limited to guitar, flute, keys, oboe, strings, and eerie chorales) and ornate arrangements that are meant to appear effortless. The album was created in two parts in which it came together; the first portion written during the nomadic Lee’s tour following the release of Love, finding him in an exploratory, optimistic and love-struck mood littered with new friends and inspiration. The second half finds Lee uncharacteristically settled in New York with time, space and capital to flesh out the endeavor but not without paying the price of living in the thick of both an angry and chaotic city.
Based around the idea of the placidity that can come from a skipping a stone and watching its inevitable fall into the depths, Lee takes on ideas of falling in love and the fear of it, crooked cops and meditations on personal success and his the rambling path, all the while evoking Rocky Votalato and Sufjan Stevens at their finest and folky. “Madrugada” is an intro rife with tinkling chimes, melting into title track “Skipping Stones,” which arouses immediate Sufjan-At-Christmas vibes, weaving a jingle-jangle rush of harmonics that wouldn’t be out of place in a church and ending with a starry farewell roll that floats away on soft strings.
“Closer, Still” invokes a creeping sadness, reminding one of a lonesome jaunt that’s just a tad psychedelic, as if the stroll took place down rainbow road. “Lost Dreamers” is a saccharine love song, infused with lush orchestral backing, slow and measured percussion and a moony outlook that’s both naive and wise.
“Not For Nothing” marries a strong trio of guitar, keys and strings, a subtly defeated track that rallies with Lee crooning ‘though at times we lose our way / home is closer everyday / just a little past the haze / it’s not for nothing’ in a classic take on a wanderlust track. “City Sirens” waxes political, not something Lee is overtly known for, in another installment of unrest and desperation surrounding Eric Garner’s death (a sentiment also echoed on Kevin Morby’s recent release Singing Saw).
Overall Skip A Sinking Stone is a pretty and well thought out effort – gorgeous and lush, ruminative and astral – though bite sized and occasionally lacking in emotional gravity. As another installment in Lee’s story, Skip A Sinking Stone makes perfect sense, summed up by Lee himself in the slow lull of “Fire Escape,” in which he explains ‘I brought you into my daydream, but wasn’t ready for you to wake me.’