John Vanderslice is now on his seventh studio album and has officially been present in the world of music for a decade.
You'd think that with ten entire years honing your skills and working on your faults that finally, you'd know where you wanted to be as a musician and would've settled within your comfort zone. Unfortunately, that still doesn't seem to be the case.
Vanderslice seems intent on burying his musical brain with confused, unnecessary theatrics and this point is strengthened in the beautiful Forrest Knolls. It's a sparse, haunting tangent that is dampened by the unnecessary last minute; throwing loud, disruptive horns over an already beautiful song is not what we would call impressive and seems to be nothing but detrimental to the entire experience.
Tremble And Fear is a nice enough introduction to the album and holds an appealing, albeit rather simple rhythm. "Here comes the one, here comes the one, the one, the one, yeah she's the one" he muses melodically, approaching the same sonic topography as a certain Mr. Kweller.
Though the music is never unattractive, it never truly diversifies enough to warrant the need to keep coming back. It's enough to entertain, but is it enough to stand up to the amount of outstanding records that 2009 has already given us so far? We think not.
C & O Canal shows Vanderslice relax a little and let his troubles fade into a more jovial jaunt. The beat is vastly enjoyable and revels in its inoffensive nature. Successive to that is Too Much Time which is vastly enjoyable in its melody and vocal pitching. It's ambient and ethereal - sounding prominent but distant and serves as a highlight in the so far surprisingly unimpressive tone of the record. "Stone by stone, i left my only home, and brick by brick, i woke myself from happiness." It's dark around the edges and drifts hazily and uncertain throughout it's relatively short duration.
There are most definitely a few highlights strewn across this unbalanced record and at times there's actual genuine brilliance (check Carina Constellation's almost Midlake-like atmospherics) but overall there's still something missing. It's a confused journey through the mind of a man still unsure as to where his real talents lay and whilst it is a disappointment overall; it's still a listen worth taking, if only once.