Ben Lee

Awake Is the New Sleep (New West)

The fifth album by Australian indie-pop wunderkind Ben Lee sports the crappiest title since, oh, Operation: Mindcrime. But give the guy a break: Last year he broke up with longtime girlfriend Claire Danes, then got to watch her fall in love with Billy Crudup, a handsome older man who could probably take Lee in a game of, well, whatever. Besides, Lee's getting back to what he's good at, which is not the electro-flavored experiments of 2002's Hey You. Yes You. On Awake he's reunited with producer Brad Wood, who helmed Lee's debut, Grandpa Would, back when his underage schtick was all he needed to get over. As his new home at alt-country indie New West suggests, Lee is surrounded by rootsy acoustic guitars, loose percussion and creamy organs. With the exception of the titanically overblown "Light," which scrapes the 10-minute mark for some reason I'm neither sensitive nor Australian enough to glean, Lee's tunes shine with a regular-guy charm. Even in "Catch My Disease," when he brags about being "backstage in Pomona," it's kind of like, "OK--but just this once."

 
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