Thursday, August 2nd, 2007
Tablespoon Of Codeine
The title of John Vanderslice’s new album, Emerald City, doesn’t refer to his Tiny Telephone studios in San Francisco, wherein he’s worked sonic magic on records by the likes of The Mountain Goats, Spoon and Beulah whilst wearing his pointed producer’s hat. Instead, it’s in reference to the Green Zone in Baghdad and it’s from this war zone that underscores that Vanderslice the singer-songwriter draws the themes of his latest song cycle.
Vanderslice (does anyone else call him “The ‘Slice”?) has a tremulous voice that’s well-suited to the melacholic melodies that suffuse Emerald City. He sounds infused with a sense of anxiety, trepidation and apprehension that reflects the lyrical themes on the record – in particular the trials he’s had to go through to try and get his French girlfriend a US visa. A distinctly personal struggle but considering that it can be tied rather directly to the post-9/11 Homeland Security policies, it’s a personal struggle that speaks to the broader issues affecting his country.
And as befits a recording by as accomplished a producer as he, Emerald City is a sonic jewel. It’s seems spare on the surface but further and closer listens reveal it to be suffused with little aural details and flourishes that sound simultaneously lo-fi, yet shimmering – like a banged-up chrome tailpipe rescued from a junkyard and polished to a gleaming shine. From the gentle beauty of “Kookaburra” through the relatively rocking “White Dove” to the slight electronic stutter of “Tablespoon Of Codeine”, Emerald City is a treat for the headphone set and anyone who likes superb, slightly downtrodden pop songwriting.
Vanderslice is touring Emerald City hard, both on the information superhighway (does anyone still call it that?) and the real, paved one. For the former, he’s engaging in a blog tour with video performances of a track from the album at each of Stereogum, Gorilla Vs Bear, BrooklynVegan, You Ain’t No Picasso and My Old Kentucky Blog so far. Still to come are stops at An Aquarium Drunkard, Sixeyes, Catbirdseat and right here, sometime next week. As for the real world tour, he’s all over North America in late September and early October, including a stop at the Horseshoe in Toronto on October 1.
Aversion,Daytrotter and PopMatters talk to Vanderslice about the record while The AV Club puts his iPod on shuffle. Bradley’s Alamanac is sharing MP3s from a show in Boston from this past Spring, for those looking to get a taste of how he sounds live. I’ve seen him twice in the past and can testify he puts on a great live show without losing any of the quirks you’d think could only be captured in a studio setting.
Canada.com, The Arizona Star and The Phoenix New Times profile Vanderslice’s tourmate from this past Spring St Vincent while Tiny Mix Tapes talked to Vanderslice clients The Mountain Goats at the benefit show for the ZOOP! animal sanctuary. And Express has a conversation with Spoon, who’ve also put tunes to tape at Tiny Telephone.
The National have a sit-down with PopMatters and talk about paying their dues on the road, long before finding success and acclaim with their last two records. The band are in town on October 8 at the Phoenix and, presumably, will not be sleeping in any wet beds in hostels on the way. Support on this tour looks to be Doveman, who will surely be joining the band on piano as well.
Newsarama reports that Neil Young’s 2003 album/movie/stage play Greendale will come to life in yet another medium – the comic book. Vertigo will publish the graphic novel, written by Josh Dysart and illustrated by Sean Murphy, which instead of adapting the narrative of the film will instead tell a new story set in the fictional northern California town.
Time has a conversation with Neil Gaiman, who will see the first big-screen Hollywood adaptation of one of his works next week with the release of Stardust. I wasn’t a huge fan of the graphic novel – it was pleasant but not especially inspiring – and the film looks about the same. But, as a matter of principle, I hope it does well. And I hope they never make a Sandman film.
But the ARE making a Watchmen film. Finally and perhaps unwisely, but it’s happening. The cast has been announced and they unveiled a poster by original series artist Dave Gibbons at Comic-Con this week. The principals involved seem alright and director Zack Snyder isn’t a hack, but still. AMBIVALENCE. GREAT AMBIVALENCE.