John Vanderslice

Emerald City

BY Jill LangloisPublished Aug 16, 2007

To call John Vanderslice’s newest recording, Emerald City, a political record would be the understatement of the year. Written mostly while Vanderslice and his French national girlfriend waded through legal papers because of her rejected visa application, the album (named after the Green Zone in Baghdad) is part personal anguish unveiled and part global frustration unleashed. It’s Vanderslice’s ability to mesh the two lyrical components with an equally diverse set of musical elements that helps evoke the emotion of the thoughts that obviously keep him awake at night. Hauntingly vivid stories of kidnapped children, the September 11 aftermath and soldiers being killed at war are more thought-provoking than the evening news; and when set to the simple tones of acoustic guitars and synths, it’s easy to see the appeal of Emerald City, regardless of the heavy topics. You may even find yourself tapping your foot to "The Minaret,” until you realise Vanderslice is singing about the war’s destruction, making dread pulsate through you, sticking with you for days to come. But don’t feel guilty about enjoying such a sombre set of songs. Vanderslice’s Rage Against the Machine-like lyrics, albeit with much less rage and much more reason, aren’t the only things to be paid attention to; this music of soft strums and stripped down vocals is definitely meant to be ear pleasing as well as reflective.

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