John Vanderslice : White Wilderness

<img src="" alt="John Vanderslice - White Wilderness" />His latest marks a distinct change in his style that listeners will notice almost instantaneously. ...
John Vanderslice : White Wilderness
7.0 Dead Oceans

John Vanderslice : White Wilderness John Vanderslice’s latest marks a distinct change in his style that listeners will notice almost instantaneously.  Gone are his grungier elements as seen in "Bill Gates Must Die" or the more recent "White Dove", in favor of a mellower attitude more along the lines of his work with the Mountain Goats (QRO live review) on the 2009 EP Moon Colony Bloodbath.

The tone set by this album is made most apparent by Vanderslice’s adoption of a full orchestra for each track, using a full bevy of instruments outside of the usual strings and horns.  However, it’s not just the wider range of instruments, but the overall sense of how much more inspired their uses are that makes this standout out above something like Peter Gabriel’s Scratch My Back from last year.  The orchestration is written in a way that feels less like an afterthought and more a part of the album; every part for each individual instrument is needed for the full effect.

Even the lyrics are up to par this time around, as always.  Vanderslice’s select choice of words manages to give tracks like "Alemany Gap" and "After It Ends" a lack of overall lyrical content while still maintaining a sense of depth and substance.  There are the usual tales of love and forgotten places of old, but it’s tracks like "20K" and "The Piano Lesson" that offer the listener a trip to the bottom of the sea by way of a submarine or a simple lesson on the old black and white keys on a hot summer day.  Once again, Vanderslice demonstrates his ability to write a simplistic song of feeling forlorn that avoids any of the usual groan-worthy lyrics. 

All in all, White Wilderness gives us a peek at a more downtrodden Vanderslice.  Some fans may find this a bit surprising, given his usual upbeat nature, but they will unquestionably enjoy it nonetheless.  The album’s creative and, more importantly, inspired use of orchestration (aspects that have been particularly lacking on many albums that incorporate orchestras as of late) offers another welcome and memorable addition to the Vanderslice saga that just doesn’t quite make the cut as one of his all-time bests.  Followers should undoubtedly pick this one up, but those who are new to the man’s work should look elsewhere.

MP3 Stream: "The Piano Lesson"

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