Nice guys

New cuts from John Vanderslice, Bishop Allen, the Cave Singers, and the Tenderhooks
By BRUCE COHEN  |  July 9, 2007
John Vanderslice

John Vanderslice — indie-rock artist, producer, and all-around nice guy — has had a tough year. In the midst of writing Emerald City, his first album since 2005’s critically acclaimed Pixel Revolt, he’s been embroiled in a Kafka-esque legal battle with US immigration, which has rejected his French girlfriend’s visa application. This still unresolved bureaucratic nightmare has not, however, deterred him from creating his most fully realized work. The new album, which is named for the US military “green zone” in Baghdad, is due later this month, but Barsuk already has one track available on-line. Here it is, along with new cuts from Bishop Allen, the Cave Singers, and the Tenderhooks . . .

John Vanderslice, “White Dove," Barsuk
Recorded in analog at Vanderslice’s Tiny Telephone studio in San Francisco, “White Dove” is warm and intimate, yet painfully raw. Lilting harmonies juxtapose with dissonant power chords to flesh out a disturbing tale of a neighbor’s kidnapped and murdered child. Vanderslice’s literary eye and his economical use of words have always served him well; here he creates a harrowing pop miniature reminiscent of the short stories of Raymond Carver.

Tenderhooks, “Kidstuff," Rock Snob
Knoxville’s Tenderhooks are often labeled alt-country, but on “Kidstuff,” from their soon to-be-released Vidalia, they channel Irish pop punkers the Undertones. Lead singer Jake Winstrom’s adenoidal warble is a dead ringer for Fergal Sharkey’s, and though that may be a deal breaker for some, “Kidstuff” is new-wave power pop at its best — loaded with exuberant, catchy guitar hooks and plenty of snotty adolescent vitriol.

Cave Singers, “Seeds of Night," Matador
On this track from the forthcoming Invitation Songs, Seattle’s Cave Singers brew an intoxicating blend of folk, punk, and Appalachia. Spare acoustic guitar, bass, and washboard create a tight skiffle groove, and though the tune meanders a bit, lead singer Peter Quirk’s care-worn hypnotic vocals cast a spell like some hillbilly shaman.

Bishop Allen, “Rain," Dead Oceans
Indie-folkers Bishop Allen spent last year writing, producing, and recording a different EP for release each month as Dead Oceans. “Rain” isn’t from any of those releases: it’s a new track that’ll be on Bishop Allen’s second proper studio album, The Broken String, later this summer. Congo rhythms drive an infectious folk-pop melody that brings to mind Belle and Sebastian, and the quirky toy piano accompaniment, coupled with Justin Rice’s obvious infatuation with Ray Davies, evokes Muswell Hillbilly–era Kinks.

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    John Vanderslice — indie-rock artist, producer, and all-around nice guy — has had a tough year.
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