But this volley 'cross the bow of the Zeitgeist will undoubtedly gain him a legion of new admirers, because on the basis of sheer quality, this is a one-listen-conversion-type record.
From the cacophonous beauty of opener "Pale Horse," with its rousing us-against-them chorus ("We are many/ and they are few") and faint hints of Calexico-esque horns, to the immensely touching and nearly-too-sad-to-stand "My Family Tree," Vanderslice adroitly uses first-person narration and bright production (via Vanderslice's own SF studio, Tiny Telephone) to put the listener "in" a song in a visceral, almost physical way.
Cellar Door features character-driven subject matter ranging from the travails of a TV-stealing junkie (perhaps a paean to Requiem for a Dream?) to a foreign policy broadside ("Heated Pool and Bar") that laments, "But you can't be nice ... and you can't be good." It's a testament to Vanderslice's skill as a songwriter that one easily identifies with the wide-ranging cast that populates this gem. It's emotionally resonant in a way that recalls Achtung, Baby or the Afghan Whigs, although it's sonically and stylistically quite different from both.
Cellar Door is an impressive achievement, and one which I could not recommend more highly.