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Ben Lee

Awake Is the New Sleep
New West

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My prediction? After the first few singles on his new album slowly work their way into heavy rotation on Gap-store soundtracks and Volkswagen commercials, Ben Lee finally becomes as famous a songwriter stateside as he already is in his native Australia. Awake Is the New Sleep, Lee's first work since his highly publicized falling-out with Claire Danes at the age of 25, is anything but a young man's break-up record. Instead, as the title suggests, hope, positivity and maturity are recurring themes; in the album's liner notes, Lee even thanks "Master Nan Lu and everybody at the American Taoist Healing Center, for teaching me 'nothing.'"

Laugh if you must, but for anyone with a proclivity toward quirky and precise songwriting, clean beats and pseudo-existential lyricism, Awake is the real deal. "Gamble Everything for Love" is the album's grand slam: an addictive but easy-to-digest track that's one-part Zen Koan and two-parts luminous indie-pop. But even the album's few non-radio-ready songs are worth a listen. Brilliant songwriting, brilliant attitude. I'm definitely staying awake for the next one.

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