This second full-length release (there have also been some EPs) by Ben + Vesper is my entry point. I’ve heard nothing prior, but now most likely will, once I’m over being intrigued by the catchy and mysterious bearing of Honors. The lyrics are rich with observations, metaphors and introspection, often in slivered and resonant phrases. The whole may make itself apparent later, but at first blush it’s like the facets of a diamond, each one sparkling and reflecting. The titles themselves are compelling, though they seem to function as labels without being drawn from what is sung. And then there’s the matter of the band’s name: They are a married couple, each one being on either side of the plus sign. Ben is actually Joshua Stamper; Vesper’s real name does not make itself apparent.
With those facts out of the way, the sonics are what are at the heart of this disc. Stamper’s guitar and Vesper’s keyboards are half of the core quartet, along with bassist John Mosloskie and drummer Steve Oyola, appended on some tracks by Sufjan Stevens on piano. Just as Ben + Vesper’s reference points empower the songwriting, mine allow for comparisons unique to my past listening experiences. The opening track, “Adult Vaga,” got my attention because the couple’s harmony vocals brought to mind a favored Boston band from the 1980s, Christmas. There are also connections to the character of works by Stevens and Rilo Kiley (or, more specifically, the conversational phraseology of Jenny Lewis’ lyrics).
For the most part an electric ensemble, they judiciously utilize acoustic instruments as well, such as on the curiously titled “Understruggle: Yay, Win.” The album’s closing title track is a tour de force of anthemic bearing wedded to campfire sing-along.