Ben Lee Awake is the New Sleep

Former teen folk poster boy Ben Lee may have dipped below the music radar slightly in recent years but it’s not for lack of creative output. Lee has been releasing records steadily since 1994 and, outside of that, has collaborated with artists as varied as Evan Dando, Kylie Minogue and Ben Folds. His most high-profile work, however, came with his much lauded feature film debut as the lead character in 2003’s Australian comedy, The Rage in Placid Lake. Within his hectic schedule, Lee found time to record this latest batch of thoughtful, introspective folk-rock songs that perfectly encapsulates his unique contribution to music. Rather than heartbreak, Lee chooses to focus on hope and the affirmation of love. Songs like "Whatever It Is” and "Gamble Everything for Love” are sunnier than their moody arrangements might suggest. Lee is particularly poppy on songs like "Into the Dark” and the Tom Petty-inspired "No Right Angles,” while he lets his hair down on the jazzy, 10-minute jam that is "Light.” There are also brooding, rebel elements to "Get Gotten” and "I’m Willing” that are somewhat surprising coming from Lee. At 26, he still sounds like a precocious teen even as he enters manhood and, in some ways, Awake is the New Sleep may prove to be a transition record for both Lee and his fans. (New West)