John Vanderslice may reveal a sense of humor on his website, but in his songs, he doesn’t have a lot of uplifting things to say about life. What he does say, however, he says beautifully. His patented “sloppy hi-fi” sound is amazing – lush, deep and raw at the same time. Cellar Door is one of the best-produced recordings I’ve heard, and it’s where Vanderslice shines. Of course, it’s no surprise since he owns Tiny Telephone, an analog recording studio in San Francisco. It affords him tight control over the recording process, and that comes through in the music.
His songs come across as a blend of Nick Drake and early Peter Gabriel. They’re as beautiful as a frozen bird. Example from “Pale Horse” (mp3): “from the haunts of daily life / where is waged the daily strife / common wants and common cares / cuts the human heart with tears.” The whole album is full of observations like this. If you’re feeling depressed, this thing won’t cheer you up. But if you’re relatively stable, Cellar Door is full of bleak, beautiful sadness finely wrought with exquisite music.
Tons of free Vanderslice mp3s are available from his site.