John Vanderslice is a Bay Area singer-songwriter, once with the band mk Ultra but now a solo artist. He also occasionally helps produce albums in the much-acclaimed recording studio he founded, Tiny Telephone. The studio uses only analog instruments and recording, but Vanderslice dirties the sound up with tons of distortion and effects. He calls it “dirty hi-fi.”

john vandersliceI didn’t really get on the Vanderslice wagon until his third solo album, Cellar Door. He really hit his stride, though, with the fourth, Pixel Revolt. It sounds strange to say, but 9/11 did it. It served as a conduit for the strange and sometimes unsettling mix of paranoia, passion, and regret that infuses his lyrics. Much of that album can be seen as a meditation on 9/11, and the same can be said of his new one, Emerald City, which I think is his best yet. For all the existential angst — existential in the original philosophical sense — of his lyrics, the songs are littered with catchy hooks and breathtakingly beautiful moments. It’s an entirely idiosyncratic blend.

Vanderslice streams the entire album on his site, and there are also links to short videos he did for each song. He’s on tour behind the album right now. Catch him if you can.

This song is called “Tablespoon of Codeine.” Check out the lyrics below.

There’s a guy from the Sun Tribune
Staking out my house in a Chevy Impala since yesterday noon
Should I speak to him or just stay quiet?
They hear the whistle blow and out pours the blood of my child

Tablespoon of codeine
Put you right to bed
I don’t want any more codeine
Wanted to make it on my own tonight

So I said some things that can’t be said
About a ritual tower, the uses of more American dead
And what happened in September was a fake
But they’re chasing demolition or remote control planes

Tablespoon of codeine
Will put you right to bed
I don’t want any more codeine
Wanted to make it on my own tonight

Whatever you do you have to commit
And whatever you do you have to put your blood into it
So I said some things that can’t be said
From the FAA the empty desk of Alan Armistead

Tablespoon of codeine
Will put you right to bed
I don’t want any more codeine
Wanted to make it on my own tonight