John Vanderslice – Dagger Beach album review

If one thing is for certain, it is that John Vanderslice is a man of many stories. Like any good storyteller, Vanderslice strives to seek a creative and effective outlet for the retelling of his adventures. In writing his experimental 2013 album, Da. The title alone sculpts an obscure and esoteric image that one can only assume coincides with the profound nature of the material found on the album. In Dagger Beach, Vanderslice confides his most sincere thoughts and reflections into thirteen tracks that tell the story of his cerebral adventures.

Dagger Beach is the ninth full-length album composed by John Vanderslice and clocks in at just under forty minutes. In such a short time, Vanderslice fabricates a personal account of the most difficult trial he has come to face in his career. His wife of six years chose to end their marriage, and left Vanderslice on the brink of insanity. Left to pick up the pieces of his shattered emotions, the scorn songwriter disappeared into the woods of Northern California and dreamt up his most inspired work yet. In his time of tribulation, his mass of loyal fans showed their support by endorsing his Kickstarter campaign, which completely funded the production of Dagger Beach (actually quadrupling the predetermined goal).

Although Dagger Beach was inspired by such despairing emotions, Vanderslice keeps his head and focuses on conveying his feelings to the fullest extent. While the lyrics are frequently somber and distressed, songs such as “Harlequin Press” and “How the West Was Won” still manage to carry a happy tune. In such examples, Vanderslice shrouds his pain and anguish with cheerful melodies and lively rhythms, illustrating his reliance on music as a remedy for his broken heart. While many of the songs share a fictional element, others, such as “Damage Control” offer his personal testament to his dismal heartbreak, reminiscing ‘when we just met.’ As he copes with his broken heart, “Sleep it Off” recounts the memories of his relationship with his former lover as they walk hand-in-hand on the shores of Dagger Beach.

The emotional trauma that John Vanderslice has overcome in the past year, as well as the unmitigated support of his growing fan base has produced an overwhelming representation of a fulfilled passion. Dagger Beach, Vanderslice’s manifestation of burning desire combines his limitless fantasy with the expertise of backing band Magik*Magik Orchestra, who presents interesting drum grooves and entrancing Mellotron-soaked melodies. The combination of these two crucial elements results in  musical alchemy that truly represents the wonder of John Vanderslice’s boundless  imagination.

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