John Vanderslice Romanian Names

On his seventh studio full-length, John Vanderslice has spun the telescope around to peer through the other end. Years of running the Tiny Telephone Recording Studio have contributed to his wizardry but this time out he's boxed a few bells and whistles and worked out of his basement, contributing to the more intimate feel. Where the narrative tone of his songs have tended towards the continent-hopping epics, here songs like "Fetal Horses" and "Oblivion" are heartsick ballads with bright bruised imagery. Like recent tour-mate John Darnielle (the Mountain Goats), Vanderslice has a knack for exporting inner struggle into exotic scenery. Those themes are well matched to the simple melodies, which are made grand by masking them with a lattice of strings and synths. Moments where the mask drops, like the title track's bare acoustic guitar and voice, prove the man behind the curtain is still the strongest thread in the weave. (Dead Oceans)