I don’t, like, drink beer with John Vanderslice, but he lives across the street from one of my friends in a fogged-in outer-SF neighborhood, and he’s legendary around town for being a super nice guy, which he totally was the one time I talked to him. This of course should all be irrelevant to the actual music, but still, I get all excited when he has a new CD coming out, like, “Hooray! Go, you!” Vanderslice is a multi-instrumentalist and studio owner, so it’s hard to characterize his sound: Beatles-y, Smoggy, Death Cabby? The title of his sixth (!) solo album, Emerald City, apparently refers to Baghdad’s Green Zone, which reflects the darkness that creeps up around the edges of these deceptively sunny tunes. I guess his French girlfriend’s visa is all tied up in Homeland Security red tape, so it’s understandable where the heartache is coming from. But on songs like “White Dove,” which asks, again and again, “what are you thinking of,” the sense of longing is rendered with delicate grace; you get the feeling Vanderslice couldn’t make an ugly song if you paid him to.
Emerald City is out Tuesday, July 24th on Barsuk Records.