John Vanderslice could be a clone of any solo artist trying to keep his head above water, but his creative use of sound effects set him apart. His experimental music adds interesting components to his songs and gives his music that extra something that many of today’s artists are lacking.
Although his sound is typical of pop-rockers, Vanderslice’s added elements create music that’s more artistic than most independent label heroes. His fourth album, Cellar Door, crosses the line between music and poetry. The album is full of emotion, presented in a way that can’t be feigned.
Vanderslice’s 400 hours spent working on this album paid off. The Bay Area performer incorporates the stories of his past with his feelings of the present, producing songs that are sad and beautiful.
The tone of the album is set in the Vanderslice’s first song, “Pale Horse.” “From the haunts of daily life/ Where is waged the daily strife/ Common wants and common cares/ Cuts the human heart with tears,” he sings, presenting a melancholy mood. His depression is apparent in this song and continues to surface throughout the rest of the album.
“Heated Pool and Bar” makes a political statement about the experiences of U.S. soldiers. Vanderslice talks about how the shooting and violence of war have affected the people in his life, and how the chaos has affected him on a personal level.
Deviating from his normal patterns, “Coming and Going on East Terms” is slightly faster and more energetic than his other songs. The song is similar to a classic rock song that might have been done by Queen or Rush.
“Lunar Landscapes” is the most inspiring song on the album. It is a love song, mixed with a lifelike persona that only Vanderslice could incorporate. In the song, Vanderslice encourages his lover to run away with him. He begs her to jump off the great cliffs, over the rocks and into the sea, where they might never land. It is an unnaturally lovely song, telling a Romeo and Juliet-type story that ends in both tragedy and happiness.
The sun shines peacefully in the song “June July,” closing the album with a soothing effect. He tells of how he gets struck by lightning and thrown to the ground, but ends the tune with a somber message: “When I awoke/ The sun was streaming over the fields/ Warming the ground soaked with summer rain.”
Vanderslice is a brilliant songwriter and musician, and his talents are unmistakable in Cellar Door.
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