HONORS reveals a more confident and adventurous Ben + Vesper, who have surrounded themselves with good friends who happen to be perfectly suited to translate Ben + Vesper’s songs into a pleasing and universal vernacular. Here is an album that is full of dance party music for the unsung heroes of the world. Here is an album that is brimming over with eager anticipation from one track to the next. Impeccably recorded by Brian McTear, Amy Morrisey and Daniel Smith in a total of five days, HONORS is one of those albums that marks a moment in time, a moment worth recording and listening to and talking about for years to come. Four albums in four years on Sounds Familyre, and Ben + Vesper have gone and done it. They have graduated the school of rock, with HONORS.
This record began in Ben + Vesper’s kitchen so many years ago over three bowls of vegetarian chili, a pan of cornbread, filtered water, and an agreeable dinner guest by the name of Sufjan Stevens. The occasion was an invitation to play at a house-concert series that Ben + Vesper hosted in their living room (which resulted in Sufjan’s first live show ever). This unlikely start to Sufjan’s performing career also resulted in an ongoing friendship and musical dialogue that has recently inspired Ben + Vesper to dish out another dollop of ambrosial pop songs titled LuvInIdleness. Here is the new EP that finally brought the dinner party full circle as Sufjan, in turn, invited the Jersey-based couple across state lines, harrowing train connections and two great rivers to record 16 minutes of listening glee.
If you don’t wish to try all this, then put on the CD, and you will be pleased to hear a heavy dose of Sufjan’s bright and varied arrangements underpinning each track, and Ben’s brother Josh plucking and bowing that unmistakably gorgeous upright bass. One of the greatest achievements of LuvInIdleness is the room provided for Vesper’s voice to really shine. On every song, Vesper can be heard striding out from the shadows of a backing vocalist to command each melodic turn with her distinctive range. This gives greater weight to Ben’s understated baritone as the two voices form a pleasing union throughout the course of the album.
LuvInIdleness is not only a really satisfying listen, but also a celebration of enduring friendship.
"All This Could Kill You" is a fiercely beautiful and mysterious collaboration between husband and wife Ben + Vesper and their cast of siblings, grade school friends, brand new friends and friendly strangers. Produced and recorded by Daniel Smith (Danielson), this 13 song album smartly navigates through wildly disparate genres and styles and lands squarely in the ranks of good music that you simply cannot be without. If Ben + Vesper must be classified, one could parse it as such: 1/3 English Country Lane, 1/3 Croonsville, 1/16th Motown, 1/32 Brazilian Psychodelialand, 1/32 Dark Mythic Forest. All comparisons aside, this is music that innocently holds hands with innovation and accessibility. The great strength of this album is the mystical connection that is instantly apparent between the couple at the helm. The low hum resonance of Ben's voice floats and falls through one gorgeous melody after another, while Vesper effortlessly breathes every harmony like a shining maiden from the nether world. One gets the feeling that Ben + Vesper are singing to you alone, reciting the forgotten letters of an old friend written in a common language that lay dormant far too long. Every song offers instrumentation that is wonderfully diverse and concise derived from a team of formidable players, some well known, and some who are bound to be. Sufjan Stevens quietly sits on the floor with his banjo, woodwinds, vocals and piano while drummer David Smith punches each song into its full dance floor potential. Daniel and his wife Elin sing and whistle and snap and knit. But the manic men behind the curtain are Ben's older brother Josh and Ben's lifelong friend Chris Weisman. Together, they worked tirelessly to forge the backdrop of sound that has you edging ever closer to your speakers. Their arrangements are fine tuned in their complexities, yet breathe the air of improvisation that reference the hardship and playfulness of life while flatly condemning the cold claws of irony that have gripped so much independent music today. “All This Could Kill You” is an album that is 100% human and still winsome to the masses. This recording achieves what all timeless music does: to look squarely at the sufferings of this life and hold out hope like a weapon for all to wield, and to have fun all the while.
Ben + Vesper is the pure extract of marital bliss you've always wanted but were afraid to ask for. Crushing love songs hide themselves among shopping lists while shadowy omens take the shape of swelling laundry piles. Ben + Vesper’s words and sounds are forged in the fires of an eight year matrimony and a musical collaboration of nearly a decade. With a butter-yellow Telecaster and a hushed croon, Ben brings the listener down a sonic path filled with weathered charm and absurdity, until lost in the dim light of a spooky old forest. The thicket creeks and calls and whispers with the voice and delicate accordion of the ever radiant Vesper, granting safe passage to the most discerning ear. Together, they beckon the weary soul towards a rich spread and surround them with a faithful and talented party of players, making music that strikes hard at any heart that has ever loved and lost.
Hailing from Northern New Jersey, these wedded troubadours have just announced their most ambitious and diverse collection of songs to date through two releases on the Sounds Familyre label. "More Questions" is the first of these to be released to the hungry masses in November of 2006. This seven song family affair features Kurt Weisman and Asa Irons of the acclaimed psych-folk band Feathers, Kurt's brother Chris Weisman, and Ben's brother Josh Stamper.