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John Vanderslice | Cellar Door | review | alternative | rock | Lollipop

John Vanderslice

Cellar Door (Barsuk)
by Tim Den

John Vanderslice leads an existence most musicians would kill for: A credible back catalog (both as a solo artist and as the former frontman of indie darlings MK Ultra), owner of one of the country's most respected analog studios, Tiny Telephone, producer/engineer for everyone from Beulah to Mountain Goats, not to mention a tireless mind for quirky pop songs that are as complex as they are hummable. Sound too good to be true? On Cellar Door, his fourth solo album, the truth has never sounded better. As usual, Vanderslice pushes the limits of analog recording to its threshold, saturating tape and overdubbing a plethora of instruments without losing the warmth of the human touch. While there are everything from horns, strings, drum machines, pianos, mandolins, and the kitchen sink on Cellar Door, nothing sounds too "pristine" or "clean" that you can't cuddle up with it for a snowy day indoors. Nothing is arranged half-assedly: The peppering of the instrumentation is thoroughly thought out, used as accents and flourishes that paint the flowing songs with very appropriate colors.

Which is a big reason why Vanderslice is able to deliver his vocals in a completely nonchalant manner, because there's already enough drama in the accompaniment. Though it must be stated that, with pop hooks this catchily left-of-center, you really don't need melodrama. I myself have yet to stop marveling at the potency of the songs - which are often just a few hooks repeated over and over again - despite their simple anatomy and delivery. If ever there was a pop revolution and the deserved were actually throned, expect John Vanderslice and Jason Falkner to rule the kingdom.
(PO Box 22546 Seattle, WA 98122)

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