I often get frustrated with the term "indie folk," which encompasses everything from whispery mainstream artists like Bon Iver to poppy Two Gallants types to wonderfully inventive weirdoes like CocoRosie. Mutual Benefit are likely to land in this broad category, too, but don't wave them off as pop artists in flannel shirts. Their debut LP, Love's Crushing Diamond, explores the transcendent side of modern folk with orchestral instruments and hypnotic vocal harmonies.
"Strong River" kicks off the album with peals of bells and high-pitched swirls of strings. The volume rises slowly, creating warmth as feedback creeps into the sound's bottom layer. Vocals don't appear for two minutes, but you won't miss them until you hear the unique timbre of bandleader Jordan Lee's singing. His voice lilts over the wave of instrumentals like a refreshing sea breeze.
A lullaby of upper-octave violin lines and gentle fingerstyle guitar begins "Advanced Falconry." The string players and singers take turns with the melody, creating a bit of tension that moves the song forward. While the violins stylize this theme in ethereal ways, Lee and his guest vocalists etch the song into memory by sliding in and out of dreamy falsettos.