John Vanderslice

Album: Romanian Names
Artist: John Vanderslice
Label: Dead Ocean
Release Date: May 19, 2009
The latest release from analog self-recording darling, John Vanderslice, is being touted as his best effort so far. While I’ll leave that claim to be debated to death by his die-hard fans, it is certainly an album destined for critical acclaim if not mainstream acceptance.
Romanian Names marks his first release on the Dead Oceans label. As part of the Jagjaguwar/Secretly Canadian family, the production on the album is noticeably more polished, and vocally Vanderslice sounds more self-assured and less warbled than on previous releases. The irony is that despite a more professional sound, the album was actually recorded in Vanderslice’s basement, his San Francisco studio.
John Vanderslice writes songs with his heart worn prominently on his sleeve. Some are catchy in that sing-along kind of way while others are dramatic and in some cases, haunting. The chorus to ‘C & O Canal’ is infectious and fun while tracks like ‘Fetal Horses’ and ‘Too Much Time’ weave deeper, slightly sadder tales. The Florida native even waxes nostalgic about growing up near the Suwannee River in ‘Sunken Union Boat.’ What is clearly evident on this album is the care and devotion Vanderslice applies to his songwriting and it is the listener who is paid the dividends of such meticulous attention.
Initially, I preferred the more organic sound of JV and his acoustic guitar from his Harvest of Hope performance, but the subtle sonic elements he incorporates into the album grew on me and lend a certain depth to songs that could otherwise stand on their own.
But, with nearly any performer, the best way to really connect with the music and truly experience it as at the live show. Thankfully, JV will make Northeast Florida a stop on his upcoming tour when he plays Cafe Eleven in St Augustine on June 16th.