“Fetal Horses” – John Vanderslice
     Long-time Fingertips hero John Vanderslice returns on a new record label but with more of the wonderfully produced, smartly written music that has characterized his work to date. “Fetal Horses” is not necessarily a grabber but is a grower at once beautiful and unsettling.
      The first handhold into the piece, for me, is that gorgeous transition from the end of the verse to the bridge, as he sings, “I wanted you/To come back to me again.” The line begins, actually, as if the beginning of the verse again, but drifts on the “you,” which meanders–while also enhanced by octave harmonies–into the rest of the line, hewing to a heartbreaking melody that is vintage Vanderslice, its beauty simultaneously enhanced and subverted by disquieting piano fingerings, deftly placed strings, and, oddly, the wheezing, high-pitched carnival organ that plays through much of the song. Keep an ear on both piano and organ, as they each seem sometimes to be accompanying a different song than this one, offering enticing juxtapositions and textures that play off the beauty much as the grim and elusive lyrics do. The guitar solo at 1:58 is another jarring-but-engaging highlight.
     “Fetal Horses” is from the CD Romanian Names, to be released next month on Dead Oceans. And here’s a nice JV touch: the first 100 fans who pre-ordered the CD received an immediate download, plus a nicely-packaged snippet of the actual analog master tape used in recording the album. MP3 via Dead Oceans.




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