CD Reviews 8-22

All This Could Kill You
Ben + Vesper

Ben + Vesper’s All This Could Kill You probably won’t, but you might suffer from some fits of boredom … oh, wait, make that ennui, as if you enjoy this, you are definitely one of the cool kids.
    I’m getting a bit tired of saying, “I really wanted to like this, but …” Cute little paintings abound along with cute little lyrics like Now I’m known as stamper/the ultimate hamper-damper-pamper pooper. I think I lost my indie credentials when I moved out of Atwater Village, and even then, I wasn’t that groovy, being Silverlake adjacent and all. Perhaps if I could get back to 90039, I could understand this record a bit better.  
    Ben + Vesper’s flat voices and textbook indie strumming evoke a sincere and earnest love for Stephen Merritt, Tindersticks and Trembling Blue Stars, but if I could have it my way, I’d just rather listen to the originals, thanks. I’m glad Sufjan Stevens is their friend, but even he cannot breathe life into All This. —L. Park

Live: UFOs at the ZOO
The Flaming Lips

Midway through this rock ’n’ roll freak-out, madcap Wayne Coyne asks his rapt audience to shout back the chorus of “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” loud enough, he hopes, to counteract the actual bombs, missiles and grenades used to pummel Middle Eastern countries every day. This audience participation segment is both noble and absurd, yet begs you to dive into the deepest pools of your psyche and ask: Who are you at your happiest? At your most determined? When you are most motivated to act and believe that anything is possible?
    The uncontainable crowd exults, high on giddiness (and psychedelics, no doubt), as Coyne’s lanky frame absorbs their cheers like the sun, only to return it tenfold. UFOs shows its softer side: spliced footage of sea otters, panthers and lions tell you that life endures, and only four-footed mammalia get that. Well, them and Coyne — an extraterrestrial joy lieutenant on a mission to free you from sadness, whose mind feeds off signals from alternate realities. “Waitin’ on a Superman”? He’s already here. —Mat Herron

The Wanderlust Diaries
Mary Karlzen

Don’t you think the word “wanderlust” is just a good one? I like to believe I possess my fair share, and it seems my breed choice of dogs reflects the same. Break it down, define its meaning, and its sex appeal prevails. Wander. Lust. Aimless meanderings and uninhibited desire. Wow. Anyone unfamiliar?
    And doesn’t the concept of putting pen to paper sound so simple to you when you think about it? Karlzen’s demonstration makes it appear to go off without a hitch. First impressions? A heaping of Jewel with a smattering of Carly Simon for viscosity and balance. There is sophistication and clarity in her voice while retaining the gentle spirit of an innocent child. Couple this with honesty, accuracy and meaning in the lyrics and you find yourself still and focused.
    Perhaps in losing him, she did find herself as she croons through “Find Yourself.” A sparkling replication of the delectable Tom Waits’ “Heart of Saturday Night” with subtle and resonant back-up vocals by Matthew Ryan may be the ultimate highlight of an album already chock full of more of the same. Self-discovery and longing describe the first-person expressions contained within. “Stupid or Something” is something she certainly is not. —Michelle Manker