As an ever-changing collective of participating musicians, consistently spearheaded by singer-songwriter Jordan Lee, Mutual Benefit has an extensive array of releases behind it. With six separate digital releases ranging from singles to EPs and albums being released between 2009 and 2011, the chance for extensive collaboration and growth has been enormous; the achieved potential has been clear as well, with both 2011’s Mutual Spirits and 2013’s Love’s Crushing Diamond showing a folksy, acoustic and baroque style that differs greatly from the experimental, haphazard material that came before. While Skip a Sinking Stone sticks to this formula almost a little too closely for its own good, it continues the trend of the preceding albums.
The general composition of Skip a Sinking Stone is lush. While songs vary from floaty acoustic folk tracks like Lost Dreamers to grand walls of bright sound on Skipping Stones, the mood of the album is perpetually calm, introspective and just generally melodic and soothing. Sweeping strings and a shimmering ambience cover the entire album, and layers upon layers of vocals adorn every song, in a muted whisper that blends them into the music in a way that fits thematically, though works better in some situations than it does in others.
Skip a Sinking Stone does have certain moments that shine above the rest of the shimmering mass, usually for little reasons that make the singular package of the song feel stronger. Slow March places a larger focus on the intricate guitar riffs that carry throughout the song, and the strings that define most of the album are accompanied by the unique use of horns and synths, giving it a more minimal feel than a majority of the album but giving it a strong identity to back it up. The Hereafter closes the album with piano melodies and sweeping strings at the forefront, but backs them up with harpsichord use that gives the song an east Asian flair that feels distinct, contrasting with the familiar piano and strings to give it more interest.
There’s a very specific mood to Skip a Sinking Stone that can make it seem rather impenetrable. Despite the fact that song composition varies quite a bit, the aesthetic of the album is set in stone and carries throughout, leaving less room for variety than what some listeners might want or expect. There’s still plenty to enjoy about the album, however, and Jordan Lee does a top notch job in most aspects across the album. While it might not be entirely accessible, Skip a Sinking Stone is a fitting follow-up to Love’s Crushing Diamond.