John Vanderslice: Romanian Names
The most noteworthy thing about John Vanderslice’s new album is this: Romanian Names is the best record he’s made to date. The 12 songs represent a career-defining moment, a pitch-perfect collection written and recorded with the utmost care and attention. Vanderslice is certainly not the first artist to make such a leap several albums into a career – think Guided by Voices on Bee Thousand, Spoon’s Kill the Moonlight or Of Montreal’s Sunlandic Twins. JV’s newest, his first for Dead Oceans, makes that colossal step and separates itself from an already top-notch body of work. Throughout Romanian Names, JV sings with a newfound, unwavering confidence. He gets right at you with the sing-along choruses and punchy hooks of album opener “Tremble and Tear” and the poppy gem “C&O Canal.” The songs know when to patiently step back with subtle gestures and knock-out atmospherics like those on display in “Forest Knolls” and “Summer Stock," and the album is glued together with the stripped-bare title track “Romanian Names” and the gorgeous Arthur Russell-esque album closer “Hard Times.” Romanian Names is a symphony of sounds both subtle and lush, and as an album it provides the perfect backdrop for JV’s deft and fully-realized songwriting.