WHO IS HE? The Australian indie-pop and alt-rock singer-songwriter whose meandering career began in the mid-’90s, before he could legally drink or drive. The eccentric artist whose lengthy discography includes albums dealing with Ayahuasca, Islam, yoga and beer. The onetime longtime beau of Claire Danes and current longtime husband of Ione Skye. And, perhaps not coincidentally, the world’s sexiest vegetarian of 2008, according to PETA.
WHAT IS THIS? A covers album that creatively reinvents Gen X nuggets from influences and peers like Archers of Loaf, Fugazi, Breeders, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Guided by Voices, Pavement, Sebadoh, Superchunk and more.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? A love letter to his musical youth — and a lovingly penned one at that. Most of these versions unplug the distortion pedals, smooth out the shambling beats and sand down the rough edges of the originals in order to spotlight the melodies and songcraft at their flannel-clad hearts.
WHAT SHOULD IT BE TITLED? Lee-apalooza.
WHEN SHOULD I LISTEN TO IT? When you want to relive your alt-rock youth — but don’t want to wake the kids.
WHAT 10 WORDS SUM IT UP? Sweet, intimate, sincere, uplifting, gentle, soothing, welcoming, comforting, folksy, pretty.
WHAT ARE THE BEST SONGS? A lot depends on which of the artists covered you prefer, but the orch-folk version of Sonic Youth’s Sugar Kane is pretty sweet. Ditto the squelchy jazz of GBV’s Goldheart Mountain Top Queen Directory, the reverberating richness of The Breeders’ Divine Hammer and the wheezy, Dylanesque take on Daniel Johnston’s Speeding Motorcycle.
WHAT WILL MY FRIENDS SAY? ‘If enough people buy it, do you think he might make a second volume?’
HOW OFTEN WILL I LISTEN TO IT? Way more often than you’ve listened to any other Ben Lee album — if you even own another Ben Lee album.
IF THIS ALBUM WERE GLASSES, WHAT KIND WOULD IT BE? Rose-coloured.
SHOULD I BUY, STREAM OR STEAL IT? Pay up and cross your fingers for Vol. 2.