Time to Go
Tablespoon of Codeine
John Vanderslice occupies an unusual space in indie-rock. He records with a tight group of friends in his own recording studio in San Francisco. His songs are smart, melodic and ambitious. Yet, his real influences are closer to progressive rock than the usual do-it-yourself punk. His arrangements are artier and difficult, suggesting dance music for people who have no intention of dancing. Listeners looking for patterns can discern vague concepts and infer grand themes within the songs’ private codes. The personal becomes political and the political turns paranoid throughout Emerald City. (The title refers to the Green Zone in Baghdad.) In short, there is international terrorism (“Kookaburra”) looming while a man — guilty of a crime or not — seeks refuge and remains on the run living in remote locations in fear of being found. The sound begins upbeat, turning increasingly dire as the stakes mount. “Tablespoon of Codeine” lingers with foreboding doom, as piano notes drop like icicles (the mechanical beats and cultured tones recalling Elvis Costello’s “Pill and Soap” with greater orchestration). “The Tower” wails with unnamable grief. “Central Booking” ends on a note of stirring finality.