Ben Lee

This past March, during a packed set at South by Southwest, Ben Lee gratefully exclaimed, "We're just so fucking lucky to have music!" -- without a trace of sarcasm or irony. That same joyfulness endeared the 26-year-old Australian to alt-rock grandpas Thurston Moore and Mike D of the Beastie Boys, who released Lee's first tunes on their respective labels when he was just a precocious teenager banging out bedroom rock with school chums in his first band, Noise Addict. But over the course of the last decade and a handful of solo discs, Lee has managed to shed his adolescent-wunderkind reputation without losing his sense of wide-eyed wonder. Witness his unabashed love for cheesy pop tunes -- he duetted with fellow Aussie Kylie Minogue on a cover of Duran Duran's "The Reflex" and covered Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful" live -- and the earnest sentiments of Sleep. Undulating with gently strummed guitars and subtle electronic throbs, the album would be sappy if its mantras didn't seem beamed directly from Lee's heart.