San Franciscan John Vanderslice releases his third albumm, and debut for Dead Oceans Records, Romanian Names
We've become used to hearing John Vanderslice driven by political frustration, writing his way through dark days under the Bush administration. Lyrically, 2007's Emerald City was angry and disenfranchised, but these emotions have all but evaporated on Romanian Names, and with them go much of Vanderslice's energy and passion. Forest Knolls, Sunken Union Boat and Carina Constellation all sound intriguingly romantic, but contain none of the weight of previous outings; Vanderslice makes the mistake of allowing these inoffensive tunes to over-boil in the studio, watering down the flavour and the fire. Despite the snug Fetal Horses, many hints of melody across the album are fleeting, washed under waves of impassive content, which results in an absence of quirkiness and wit, undermining his obvious songwriting talent. Romanian Names appears to have allowed Vanderslice to climb back into the box and cover his ears to his gnawing conscience, which makes for an unimpressive listen.