I must confess from the off that it's been something of a long while since I checked in on John Vanderslice. He first entered my radar a few years back when sharing a label (Barsuk) with Death Cab For Cutie bought him onto my ipod in the shape of his Pixel Revolt album, a dense swirling beast of innumerable loops and creaking lo-fi machinery creating something of an aural veil which was drawn over Vanderslices songs to create a murky series of sepia tinged vignettes.

Fast forward six years (and looking through the mans website a number of other albums, EP's , orchestral side projects) and Vanderslice has reigned in some of the aural chaos and placed focus back onto the songs rather than the dressing. What this leaves is a series of semi hushed acoustic moments, all led by spidery acoustic guitars with lashings of piano, strings and other ornaments on top.

Where previously the backing served to give the songs a gloaming ambience, in some cases leading to whole strings of songs becoming something of an amorphous blob, here the songs are defined and stark and place focus wholly onto Vanderslices lyrics and vocals.

And this is kind of the problem.

Previously Vanderslices voice had been almost another texture within a song (a perfect setting it would seem), whereas here we have a reedy delivery and some oblique auto-stipe iPhone app generated lyrics, which ends up being something of a disappointment. While the melodies are strong throughout (where they appear) and the palettes of tones and textures serve the songs well (indeed the production is lovely across the board) the mouth piece of the project almost lets it all down. Without the emotional impact of a Lamontagne, the lyrical dexterity of a Ben Gibbard or the soothingly everyman crack of a David Ford, Vanderslice looks kind of underdone in comparison and it's a crying shame.

Now I should add a standard disclaimer here that I am judging this record on the basis of two records separated by a lot of time and work I'm just trying to emphasis the fact that my overall feeling at the end of the albums running time was something of an anticlimax. Like if Simple Kid has ended up in Glee! It could all have been so much better.

That said, Vanderslices musical and production chops are still seriously impressive, I'd just like to see some more attention to the rest of the pieces of the pie.

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