The Sufjan Seal of Approval ought to be indie hard currency, but Stevens can only nudge doors open — he can’t bestow the mellifluous subtlety of his own work on his friends. And with their flaccid, too-cool folk pop, husband-and-wife songwriters Ben and Vesper Stamper squander any love by association they might’ve earned from their guest banjoist/oboist. Ben’s flat, remote vocals suggest seriousness, but he mostly sounds bored, even when he ought to be pleased (the syrupy ode to a newborn “8 Mo.”) or excited (the murky ode to life “Live Free or Try”). When Vesper chimes in, things brighten up considerably — think Ida and early Low — but even those spikes aren’t really worth the wait.
Now Hear This: Ben + Vesper – “An Honest Bluff” DOWNLOAD MP3