Sunday, Feb. 15, 2004
Because he runs his own small analog recording studio in San Francisco, singer-songwriter John Vanderslice is better equipped to record his songs exactly the way he wants them to be recorded. His first three CDs were concept albums, and his latest, "Cellar Door," may very well be a concept album, too, but concepts tend to be in the mind of the maker. Vanderslice, being both a studio maven and a songsmith, approaches his work schematically. His songs, though short, are narrative in form and cinematic in scope. Moviegoers will catch the "Mulholland Drive" references in "Promising Actress," and "Heated Pool and Bar" could have started as a treatment for an Oliver Stone film ("My cousin is down in Columbia/hunting down the rebels"). Though Vanderslice is mainly famous for his famous friends and clients (Death Cab for Cutie, Spoon, Beulah), no musicians are listed in the credits, but the full rock sound he achieves, complete with choruses, string arrangements and a rhythm section, couldn't possibly be the work of a one-man band. But maybe it is. Vanderslice is a man who knows what he wants and knows how to get it.