By Tom Reardon, October 2020 issue.
Just two offerings this month for review, but wow, what great offerings they are! For more information on our second review, please check out the interview with Ace of Cups founding member, Denise Kaufman in this issue of Echo. Looking forward to getting back to some singles next month as we get ready for a wild ride in late October and November. Take care everyone and remember to think for yourselves, please.
John Vanderslice – eeeeeeep!
As I tore into John Vanderslice’s new ep, eeeeeeep!, I couldn’t help but feel as if I had been submerged into an outtake from Radiohead during “xxxx” which kicks off the ep, but that feeling quickly subsided as “lure mice condemn erase” began. For those who are new to Vanderslice’s world, the guy is a master at writing beautiful, succinct, indie-pop songs and he’s also a master at making things sound great in the studio, so his records are always a treat to the ears and the soul. eeeeeeep! is no exception to this rule as Vanderslice recently said farewell to his longtime work home in San Francisco, Tiny Telephone Studios, and has now made his first all-digital work (yep, no analog tape was used on this record) as he makes his musical move to Los Angeles complete.
Track three, “team stammer/savior machine,” continues a bit of the Radiohead-ish feel, but again, this is the good Radiohead and not the gobbledygook that those guys can sometimes get immersed in for 20 minutes or so. Vanderslice’s use of economy in his songwriting is something to behold as his songs never overstay their welcome or get too lost in the possibility of layer after layer of studio dubs. This ep is perfect for a short drive or a quick kitchen clean up as it clocks in at under 15 minutes and you probably won’t mind at all if it plays twice in a row as you’ll pick up on some new nifty thing that Vanderslice has added to the many layers of sound. Highly recommend picking this up (as well as everything else John Vanderslice has ever done).
Ace of Cups – Sing Your Dreams
On their second studio record, bay area legends Ace of Cups brings their well-crafted songs to the forefront on Sing Your Dreams. Fans of garage-y, psychedelic, blues-infused rock and roll will dig this record. The opening track, “Dressed In Black” is reminiscent of Bonnie Raitt’s work in the 90s, gritty and bluesy and full of killer guitar work from Mary Ellen Simpson. “Jai Ma” is beautifully bouncy number that features some nimble bass work from Bakithi Kumalo (who also worked on Paul Simon’s Graceland) that makes it easy to dance along, even if you are sitting in your chair as you review it.
To be honest, if you are not completely sold on this record after these two songs, then you most likely will be after track three, which is a cover of Keb Mo’s “Put A Woman in Charge.” Ace of Cups rev up this barnburner with a solid lead vocal from newcomer, keyboardist Dallis Craft, and never take their collective foot off the gas pedal. The momentum never dies on Sing Your Dreams even if some of the songs take a softer approach that seems more like their septuagenarian age range might imply. There are great appearances by Wavy Gravy (lead vocals) on “Basic Human Needs” and Jackson Browne on the beautiful album closer, “Slowest River/Made for Love.”
Serious record collectors will be stoked, as well, with the inclusion of Denise Kaufman’s “Boy, What’ll You Do Then” which was originally released before Ace of Cups got together and the original 45rpm single is extremely hard to find. Currently, there is one listed on discogs.com for $6,000. The song is a wonderful example of the mid-60s Bay Area garage rock sound and the ladies in Ace of Cups do it plenty of justice here. “Waller Street Blues” is another standout track with intricate vocal harmonies weaving through this memory of Haight Street that evolves into a plea for reinjecting some of the true spirit of the ‘60s into this current tourist destination. While I am tempted to get a copy of this record for both of my parents who are contemporaries of Ace of Cups, I think any fan of good music will dig it, regardless of age.