Awake Is the New Sleep

Studio Album by released in 2005

Awake Is the New Sleep review

Ben Lee has been a mainstay on alternative rock airwaves; it's hard to believe the singer/songwriter is still only 26. Despite getting signed by the Beastie Boys, going out with Claire Danes and working with Dan "the Automator" Nakamura, success has remained frustratingly out of reach for young Australian. After getting dropped by his label (and his girlfriend) a few years ago, he struggled to bounce back. For album number six he comes full circle on a decade of recordings, working with producer Brad Wood (Liz Phair, Smashing Pumpkins) who spearheaded the sound of Lee's debut record Grandpaw Would in 1995. Along with Ben, the primary players were long time partner-in-crime Lara Meyerratken and guitar whiz McGowan Southworth. Special guests included Jason Schwartzman, Har Mar Superstar, Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis and Jason Faulkner.

Awake Is The New Sleep follows a comparable blueprint of 2002's Hey You Yes You: uncomplicated, unassuming, no-gloss pop songs. But there is evidence of a newfangled wisdom in Lee and his sketches of songwriting dexterity, which include the distinctive pop-rocker (Catch My Disease), the persuasive ballad (Get Gotten), the adoring folk number (The Debt Collectors) and an indulgently experimental nine-and-a-half minute opus (Light). Code one could be the riff-fully sanguine opener (Whatever It Is) in which the author proposes we chase our instincts, then verifies on the ensuing 13 songs that he does just that.

Awake Is The New Sleep is filled with quirky lyrics, spoken and sung words, and loads of questions about love, life and death. The lyrics and vernacular provide a conversational tone, in Lee's sing-songish delivery, that is both simple in delivery and layered in meaning. Lee has always been insightful, but his songwriting has matured considerably with this album, which is his best effort in years. Some albums rely on one or two songs to get them over the line but not this one, each track feels crafted to fit and when listening to it as a whole Lee manages to pull off simple melodies without making them sound simplistic. The album feels like a journey into Ben's own world and by the end of it, you feel you know him very well.