John Vanderslice: White Wilderness

John Vanderslice: White Wilderness
John Vanderslice is perhaps better known for owning and operating Tiny Telephone Studios than for his own solo music. As a studio owner and operator, Vanderslice has recorded albums by Beulah, Death Cab for Cutie, and Spoon. But for the last decade, Vanderslice has been releasing his own solo albums. His eighth studio album, White Wilderness sees Vanderslice team up with Minna Choi and her Magik*Magik Orchestra.
For me, John Vanderslice has always been an artist that I have held little opinion on. I think the main reason for this is that his sound is not overly unique. For the most part, he writes acoustic guitar based tunes not dissimilar from Sufjan Stevens or Pete Yorn. His voice is not overly unique either; it is reminiscent of Ben Kweller or Kevin Devine. So with so many similar artists, it is obvious to see why I would not necessarily hold a strong opinion on Vanderslice. White Wilderness has started to change this.
The best part about White Wilderness is hearing Vanderslice’s songs arranged for a full orchestra. Minna Choi and her Magik*Magik Orchestra help create a lush soundscape for Vanderslice’s delicate songs. I listen to a song like “Convict Lake” which would be a fairly poppy acoustic song if Vanderslice was left to his own devices. With the addition of the orchestra the track is transported to a BeatlesSgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band-esque level.
Much of the album feels like if Vanderslice lost the orchestra, the songs would just be mediocre but with the orchestra they seem to be reaching for greatness. Although I do not think the album is as good as albums recorded by some of Vanderslice’s studio’s more illustrious clients, it does stand out in his own catalog as his best to date.
Rating: 8.0/10
MP3: John Vanderslice “Convict Lake”
Buy: iTunes or Amazon