Ben + Vesper All This Could Kill You

Husband and wife Ben + Vesper present a low-key but intriguing full-length that is ushered along by inventive friends. The closest influence to Ben and Vesper Stamper’s approach is likely Stephen Merritt’s Magnetic Fields, mostly due to Ben’s low baritone but also because of the duo’s ethereal arrangements and lyrics. Though not overtly emotional there’s a dense complexity to "An Honest Bluff” and "Vow Takers,” which are almost livelier when experienced as poems rather than songs. Not that the musical arrangements or vocals aren’t compelling, more that they unravel patiently with little fanfare. Daniel Smith oversees this recording and he and his wife Elin add atmospheric noise, while Sufjan Stevens contributes banjo, woodwinds, piano and vocals. Though subdued, their influence shines through on songs like "The Floridian” and "Rockaway Twp,” which both playfully sneak into a marching band pitter-patter but hold back enough to avoid being too manic. Jolts of energy aren’t Ben + Vesper’s bag on All This Could Kill You but the record is intense enough for other reasons. (Sounds Familyre)