The ease and speed of releasing music in the modern digital culture means that now, more than ever, bands grow up in public, and from an artist's bedroom demos to their faltering first performance, for better or worse it's all out there for the fans to see. Originally self-released only as a Bandcamp download, before Mutual Benefit became blog darlings (and prior to Other Music Recording Co. signing the group), The Cowboy's Prayer is anything but a tossed-off introduction to Jordan Lee's music. It does, however, give a window into the moment when Mutual Benefit's sound really came together, and we are thrilled to be giving this great EP a proper release for the first time.

If you are a fan of Love's Crushing Diamond, the band's much-loved debut full-length from late last year, you know the allure of their music, combining introspective songwriting and Lee's fragile vocals with lovely orchestrated folk-pop, and a loose-limbed incorporation of found sounds, odd loops, worldly percussion and more. The Cowboy's Prayer brings all of this to the table fully formed, and a track like set-opener "Auburn Epitaphs" would fit in nicely on that LP. But perhaps what I most enjoy about this record is the more open-ended soundscapes that creep up in its second half, as Lee lets his knack for sound design and instrumental texture slowly unwind. There are a couple of indelible pop songs here, but it's also a wonderful psychedelic journey that is truly meditative when taken as a whole. That's one reason we packaged the LP as a stunning one-sided 12" (designed by Jordan's sister and musical collaborator Whitney, with a lovely etching on the flip-side): so that it can be listened to on vinyl without worrying about turning the thing over. Beautifully remastered and available on physical formats for the first time, any fan of the band will love this record from start to finish. (September 4, 2014)



Reviewed by Josh Madell