ACL Music Fest Saturday Reviews

ACL Music Fest Saturday Reviews

John Vanderslice

Romanian Names (Dead Oceans)

John Vanderslice's songs typically find their most compelling elements in unique pop arrangements and the distinctively voiced psyches of his characters, though both just as often threaten to overpower the tunes. The San Francisco-based songwriter's seventh studio effort and debut for local imprint Dead Oceans follows suit, for better and worse. Opener "Tremble and Tear" slides easily atop a bed of harmonies, and "C & O Canal" lilts heartbreak and revenge with vocal embellishment that amusingly belies the somewhat perverse narrative. "Too Much Time" stands out gorgeously atmospheric, but "D.I.A.L.O." skitters in uneasy rhythms. The pastoral trill and postapocalyptic doom of "Forest Knolls" and insular, organ droned drama of "Oblivion" repel the catchiness of "Sunken Union Boat" and soft cello and violin pull of emotionally rent closer "Hard Times." Vanderslice revels in unsettling the listener through unexpected dark images and musical shifts, but Romanian Names mostly succeeds only in unsettling itself. (6:40pm, BMI stage.)

**.5

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