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.
The outcome of this effort is easy to convey: go out and find a low-budget production of Midsummer Night’s Dream, and then go home and Netflix Olivia Newton-John’s Xanadu. Go to sleep and the music in your fabled dreams will undoubtedly be all five songs in order as they appear on LuvInIdleness.
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.
As a collection of songs, LuvinIdleness stands firm on the tradition of real music for hard-working people; strangely familiar but never nostalgic. Lyrically, these songs are filled with a peculiar hilarity that is just barely outrunning a gang of nagging doubts and uncertainties about the past, present, and future state of everything. For all this, it’s a happy record that opens up a world you want to stay in, and with each listen, you start to believe maybe you can.
Ye olde saying goes, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” Judging by Sufjan’s heartfelt and sweeping production on Ben + Vesper’s latest, it sounds like the chili paid off. One gets the feeling that LuvInIdleness is not only a really satisfying listen, but also a celebration of enduring friendship.
1. Swinging Swords
2. The Big Conversation
3. I Ask Because I Can
5. Oarless Oracle