When a guy kicks off his album with a tune featuring words ”freely adapted” from a Percy Bysshe Shelley poem, it’s a safe bet the proceedings are about to get pretentious. Not so with San Francisco’s John Vanderslice. His fourth CD, Cellar Door (Barsuk), is a well-conceived collection of odd pop songs with thoughtful lyrics about unusual subjects. ”Promising Actress” pays tribute to the film ”Mulholland Drive” (”Sometimes a cowboy’s just a man in a cowboy suit”), while ”Heated Pool and Bar” tackles weightier fare (”My friend is based in Afghanistan/He goes from cave to cave and pulls the trigger at the first sight of a man”). Vanderslice is a classic gear geek – he owns the Bay Area’s popular Tiny Telephone, where Death Cab for Cutie and others have recorded – and ”Cellar” is full of instruments, electronics, and studio tricks. Fortunately, none of it ever feels gratuitous. The songs stay with you as much as the sound.
Posted January 23 2004 — 12:00 AM EST
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