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Awake Is the New Sleep

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Album Review

Like most musicians who make a splash in their teens, Ben Lee has had a hard time finding his footing in his twenties. First, his American record label, Grand Royal, closed after the release of his 1999 album Breathing Tornados, and then, during the first half of the 2000s, shifting pop trends — plus a general unspoken consensus that he was no longer a pop wunderkind now that he was in his twenties — pushed him out of the limelight. He managed to get an album out in his native Australia in 2002, a move that didn't get nearly as much attention in the U.S. as his 2003 breakup with celebrity girlfriend Claire Daines. So, approaching the halfway point of his twenties and the 2000s, Lee was adrift, but he managed to regroup, at least artistically, with his 2005 album Awake Is the New Sleep. Reteaming with renowned indie rock producer Brad Wood, who helmed his 1997 LP Something to Remember Me By, Lee returns to the gently melodic, tentatively introspective indie pop that marked his best work of the '90s, but there is a difference here. Where that record, along with much of his previous work, was marked by a shy innocence, Lee is older now. He's been through the wringer and has had his heart broken, and it's given his music a greater emotional resonance. That alone would have made Awake Is the New Sleep noteworthy, but what makes it stand alongside Something to Remember Me By as his strongest album is that he's written a strong, melodic set of songs and Wood has given them a colorful but unadorned production that gives each tune its own character. It's not a great change — he's still a gentle, low-key pop singer/songwriter in the vein of Evan Dando — but the subtle changes in tone and perspective make Awake Is the New Sleep a nice, low-key comeback and an album that proves that Lee is beginning to reach his musical maturation.

Customer Reviews

Oh Em Gee.

ick. this is the worst sound i've heard in like, aaages. and it's not like me to give real bad reviews, but DUDE. "so pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease, baby please, open your heart, and catch my disease"...?! i know, let's all be victims! i'll have your disease if you have mine...


Born: 11 September 1978 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australi

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

In a music culture dominated by bands, Ben Lee turned heads by being one of the youngest singer/songwriters to make an impression on the Australian music scene. Even before the launch of his solo career, Lee attracted attention in his teens as a member of the Sydney band Noise Addict. Following the band's demise in the mid-'90s, he...
Full Bio
Awake Is the New Sleep, Ben Lee
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