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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Dallas Wiertella
Dallas Wiertella
Multimedia Editor

Through my experience here at the North Wind I have been able to have the privilege of highlighting students through all forms of multimedia journalism. Whether I'm in front or behind the camera, I aim...

The North Wind Editorial Sessions
About us

The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

NMU CARES — President Brock Tessman shares his feelings on the universitys new CARE Team. Photo Courtesy of Northern Michigan University
Letter to the Editor — Our New CARE Team
Brock TessmanFebruary 23, 2024

Review: Independent band combines modern and classical sounds

Depending on how you look at it, indie collective Mutual Benefit’s debut album “Love’s Crushing Diamond” came out in October, December or two weeks ago.

It was initially self-released through the independent music website Bandcamp. But positive word-of-mouth attracted the attention of record label Other Music, who picked up “Diamond” for a CD release and a vinyl pressing, the latter of which came out this month.

But it’s the perfect time to give “Diamond” a listen, for more reasons than one. Though the album’s been available since autumn, its intimate, hushed approach to folk and chamber pop makes it an ideal fit for winter months.

One of the strongest aspects of “Diamond” is front man Jordan Lee’s willingness to give modern and classical sounds equal weight.

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Acoustic instruments like pianos, guitars and strings are almost always present in the collective’s arrangements. But they share space with synthesizers, vocal samples and unconventional percussion. “Golden Wake,” which combines lo-fi drum machine beats, warm synth loops and simple vocal harmonies into a gorgeous whole, demonstrates this nicely.

Though the album’s production and arrangements are ornate, lush and unique, it’s the songwriting that stands out the most. “Diamond’”s melodies occupy a space located somewhere between “heartbreaking” and “maddeningly catchy.” The aforementioned “Golden Wake” may not sound like a traditional pop song, given its languishing tempo and folky instrumentation. But after a few more spins, good luck getting “we weren’t maaaaaade to be afraid” out of your head.

Every song on the album is a ballad in some way or another. Handled poorly, this decision could have resulted in a monochrome listening experience with each track becoming indistinguishable from the rest. It’s a testament to the album’s melodic variety and flawless pacing that the focus on slower songs actually strengthens the whole album. (Crucial to that sense of pacing is the album’s length, which clocks in at a mere seven tracks and 32 minutes, but it’s so ambitious and intricately-constructed that it doesn’t feel like an EP at all.)

While “Diamond” is a remarkably consistent record, its final two songs are somehow even better than the five leading up to them. Romantic second-to-last track “C.L. Rosarian” focuses on Lee’s doomed attempts to “freeze a moment in [his] mind.”

It’s followed by “Strong Swimmer,” which uses the image of a river to evoke the inevitable passage of time. Both tracks are instantly memorable and sweetly melancholy, ideal representations of the album as a whole.

On the Bandcamp website for the band’s early EPs, “Spider Heaven” and “Drifting,” buried under the usual recording notes and collaborator credits, there lies a short sentence which could serve as the collective’s philosophy. Presumably penned by Lee, it simply reads: “Remember to do cool stuff and be kind to each other.” That warm-hearted approach to life, love and art, combined with timeless songcraft and surprisingly forward-thinking production, is what makes “Love’s Crushing Diamond” one of the strongest indie albums in recent memory. And that holds true no matter what month you think it was released in.

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