Ben Lee Awake is the New Sleep

For Ben Lee — who once sang: "If you were here I'd make you cry like I did" — to come off a break-up singing, "Open your heart and catch my disease," is truly a step toward maturity. Recorded in Laurel Canyon by Brad Wood, who produced Lee's debut, Grandpaw Would (at the age of 14), Awake is the New Sleep has a dreamy, easygoing rock vibe that falls just on the good side of jammy. There are lots of keyboards, handclaps and sing-alongs (the vocal party includes Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis and Lee's Spring tour mate Har Mar Superstar) to keep the songs sunny and upbeat, but Lee's true heart reveals itself once in awhile, most prominently on the standout track "The Debt Collectors," in which he sings "I can write my way out of this pain," and sounds only half-sure of it. There's the unfortunate nine-minute wankfest of "Light," which messes up the 14-song flow and detracts from the spare album closer "I'm Willing," but overall Awake is the New Sleep helps to lead the charge away from the indie rock staples of cynicism and irony; and you can't fault Lee for that. (New West)