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I just skipped from listening to the sombre new These New Puritans effort to this latest offering from esteemed American songwriter John Vanderslice, and I have to admit it was hard to register the difference between the two at first, with both offering a mournful piano-led approach to the singer-songwriter genre. Vanderslice is American, though, and mixes an Elliott Smith-esque gentility with con ...

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Dagger Beach by John Vanderslice
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8/10 ReviewBot300 06 June 2013

I just skipped from listening to the sombre new These New Puritans effort to this latest offering from esteemed American songwriter John Vanderslice, and I have to admit it was hard to register the difference between the two at first, with both offering a mournful piano-led approach to the singer-songwriter genre. Vanderslice is American, though, and mixes an Elliott Smith-esque gentility with confident, pastoral instrumentation which reminds me of John Parish or Ralfe Band. He’s definitely been listening to lots of olde English psychedelia alongside his heartachey Americana.

The thoughtful wordplay and chord progressions can sometimes bring to mind fellow thinking person’s songwriter John Darnielle, but Vanderslice’s records are delivered with a breathy whisper reminiscent of Matthew E White or Jim White rather than Mr Goats’ opinion-polarising nasal holler, with the incisive lyrics blending into the music rather than stomping around on top. There’s a couple of interludes that show a certain flair for analogue synths which was completely unexpected and makes for a welcome break from the earnestness. Lovers of the singer-songwriter genre will love this (but they probably already know that since Mr Vanderslice is no newcomer).


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