# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

John Vanderslice - Emerald City

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 5 / 12 / 2007

John Vanderslice - Emerald City
Label: Affairs of the Heart
Format: CD


Fine Americana on sixth solo album from singer-songwriter, John Vanderslice, written while he was fighting against a rejected US visa application for his French girlfriend

Writing the major part of this, his sixth solo album, while fighting against a rejected visa application for his French girlfriend, has likely fuelled American singer-songwriter John Vanderslice to produce what might possibly be the strongest set of songs I’ve so far heard from him. Not being overly familiar with all of his previous work I am not in the position to confirm that statement but if all of his previous work had been this strong then Vanderslice would surely have a much wider audience than he has right now. If there is any justice in this world then this collection of eleven songs will introduce his talent to many more people. But to get the criticisms out of the way first, although it doesn’t affect the music it would be nice if the copy of the CD we had to review had a little more information on the sleeve. While I can appreciate the savings made by sending out CDs in simple cardboard sleeves listing any musicians involved in the making of the CD, possibly the lyrics or even a more detailed press release would have been useful. With the advent of the internet we all know how easy it is to do a little research these days but it doesn’t always yield results…I know as I have tried to find more out about this album but not had so much luck. Even clicking on ‘lyrics’ on Vanderslice’s site only throws up the words to songs on his previous albums. Then the fact nine songs are listed on this cardboard sleeve then followed by another two ‘bonus tracks’ makes it even more frustrating. Are they tracks from a previous album? Or new songs added to the European release of ‘Emerald City’? It would have been good to know. But the original American release of ‘Emerald City’ only had nine songs so I guess we should be thankful we have the extra two tracks. What we do know is that the title ‘Emerald City’ is taken from the nickname given to the American occupied Green Zone in Baghdad so Vanderslice is obviously writing about his country and the effect it has on the rest of us. Much like his previous albums in fact. The songs are centred around 9 / 11 again which was a surprise as I was expecting most of the tracks to be more directly concerned with the fight Vanderslice and his girlfriend were having with the authorities but apart from the obvious ‘Central Booking’ that is not the case. But even that song (which is beautiful; the harmonies are superb, and as with everything Vanderslice writes the melody is haunting and hook laden, not only that but Vanderslice turns in what must be one of his best ever vocal performances ever on this song) a sly nod is made to the events of 9 / 11 in the line “looks like September won once again”. I’ve listened to this album many times now and grown to like it a lot but have to say that I still get frustrated by the lack of lyrics. Vanderslice’s vocals are clear but when an artist writes short stories rather than songs and when melodies are as strong as these are it is difficult to begin with to pay much attention to those all important words. You get carried away in those melodies without noticing the power in those lyrics until the third or fourth time you hear the songs. The closing song on the copy we have, ‘Mother Of All Dead Factories’, is the one song that shows all that is great about Vanderslice. With unconventional sounds adding texture, double tracked vocals with Vanderslice proving once again that vocally he is right now at the top of the league; and those thought provoking lyrics floating over yet another gorgeous melody it is a highpoint on the album and one which it appears America may have missed out on. Never less than interesting this is an album that even if you have had your fill of political songs based around the events of 9 / 11 the chances are that you will still find much to appreciate here. ‘Emerald City’ is a good, solid album; vocally it’s one of the best albums I’ve heard in many months and sonically it throws up new sounds even after repeated playing.

Track Listing:-
1 Kookaburra
2 Time to Go
3 The Parade
4 White Dove
5 Tablespoon of Codeine
6 The Tower
7 The Minaret
8 Numbered Lithograph
9 Central Booking
10 The Hospital
11 Mother of All Dead Time Factories

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