Song of the Day: John Vanderslice – How The West Was Won

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, selected by Afternoon Show host Kevin Cole, is “How The West Was Won” by John Vanderslice from the 2013 album Dagger Beach, self-released on Tiny Telephone.

John Vanderslice – How The West Was Won (MP3)

For years now, John Vanderslice has given us brilliant and contemplative songwriting all originating from a foray of influences. Vanderslice took his first album title from a Neutral Milk Hotel tune. He contributed “Karma Police” on Stereogum’s OK X – a covers compilation tributing Radiohead’s OK Computer. Creating a unique mixture of singer/songwriter minimalism and electronic texturing, Vanderslice has long given us a one of a kind listening experience, and if you listen closely enough to his thoughtful lyrics, you can find yourself a changed person. This year, Vanderslice used Kickstarter to fund two records slated for 2013 release. First is his new release of original material Dagger Beach, from which the excellent “How The West Was Won” is pulled. The other is a cover record of David Bowie’s classic Diamond Dogs. Both are out now, and both are worth your full attention.

“How The West Was Won” is an instant classic from Vanderslice. From the getgo, we have a spastic stereo fuzz guitar and drum riff that bounces in a new direction with every listen. The disorienting underlying tone is counteracted perfectly by a warm, bright guitar and bell melody line. The resulting anxious melancholy is par for the course Vanderslice. “Oh, don’t it feel good to be understood tonight?” he sings on the hook. As the track goes on, the pieces slowly fall together more and more until the groove is pure drive. With the lyrical themes in place here, the track itself is a great metaphor for the push-and-pull relationship at hand. “How The West Was Won” is a gorgeous addition to the already stellar John Vanderslice catalogue, and if it doesn’t give you a hankering for more, you’re nuts. The rest of Dagger Beach falls right in line in similarly breathtaking fashion.

John Vanderslice was in town this past weekend, actually, as part of a series of house shows through Undertown. He’ll tour the album officially in the Fall. Keep your eyes peeled and listen to more music by following JV through his website and Facebook page. For now, here he is playing “Convict Lake” from our broadcast at Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop during SXSW 2011:

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