A marked improvement over the fun-but-spotty hey you. yes you (2003), Awake Is the New Sleep blends singer/songwriter folk and catchy pop with subtle hints of Americana and a dash of electronic experimentation. And it doesn’t waste any time before setting the mood. It’s the kind of album that’d be right at home oozing from the headphones of some searching soul meandering through the snow-covered Manhattan streets, pondering life’s strangeness and the broken hearts of the past. A soft pain permeates the music, but welling up is a quiet hope; there’s healing in this record.
Lee has always been insightful, if a little quirky, but his songwriting has matured considerably with Awake. Yet when the need arises, he still lightens things with a well-placed bout of hook-rock. With Awake, Lee has become a writer so adept at communicating his personality through song, that it’s easy to feel like you know him after just a few listens.