John Vanderslice, and The Bowerbirds

Tasty bites

John Vanderslice: Plush life.
John Vanderslice: Plush life.

John Vanderslice is a generally unnoted musical impresario whose versatility, talent, and intelligence make it seemingly impossible for him to achieve the success he truly deserves — though stranger things have happened. His impeccably crafted pop flows easily from the experimental to the baroque, from spare to plush (with more of a tendency toward the latter), and is always sprinkled with gently insistent hooks. His hand has been felt on the Mountain Goats' albums for the 4AD label, both in his role as a producer and as an arranger. His popular analog studio in San Francisco, Tiny Telephone, is in its 10th year, and Vanderslice's solo brilliance continues unabated. His odd, wildly imaginative albums are oriented around concepts from The Life and Death of an American Fourtracker to his most recent, Emerald City, which involves a man on the run from the law (and himself) after committing an act of terrorism. He's joined by a brand new act that Vanderslice's Mountain Goats protégé John Darnielle calls his favorite in years. The Bowerbirds are a rustic trio from Chapel Hill, North Carolina whose boy-girl harmonies and aching acoustic sound have an artful sophistication (maybe it's the accordion?) that suggests Iron & Wine sharing a bite with Devendra Banhart in the Decemberists' kitchen.

 
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