Ben Lee: Awake is the New Sleep

Ben Lee
Awake is the New Sleep
(New West Records)

If I wanted a mix CD, I’d make one. When I listen to an artist’s album, I want cohesiveness, and Ben Lee’s new offering has it. Lee’s reassuring Australian accent combines the sing-speak of Ben Harper with his own style of acoustic charisma on Awake is the New Sleep.

There’s plenty of music to go through with 14 tracks that all ask “Who is this heartbreaker that inspires these lyrics?” Oh wait… didn’t Lee just go through a very public breakup with actress Claire Danes? The emotions on the album may be therapeutic for him, but they’re enjoyable for me. I was waiting for optimism to be cool again, and I don’t care if it’s the product of a newfound love for life or a good turkey sandwich. Lee has no qualms about anything anymore, as evidenced in “Catch my Disease,” which includes rhythmic clapping (it works, I promise) with a melody that proves a song can be contagious. I’ll catch that disease.

Lee’s brand of guy on guitar works despite the cheesiness factor. I’ve seen many artists take themselves too seriously, and although Lee wears his heart on his sleeve and divulges all the dirt on his failed relationship, the songs are meant to cheer the listener up, not put them in deep thought. The album does have a message, though. No matter how bad it gets, it does get better… but if it doesn’t, write a bunch of songs about your troubles as your therapy.