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I like things to be easy. Like comfort food or familiarity, I admit that I can easily fall into the trappings of comfort listening. I like when John Vanderslice is easy. I love Cellar Door. I drift towards “Coming and Going on Easy Terms” or even “White Horse” and “Tablespoon of Codeine” from Emerald City. When I think of the West Coast songsmith, I reach out for those like a plate of comfort food.
But in its most pestled and grinded pop configuration, Vanderslice is never easy. And Crystals 3.0 reminds us that music should be a challenge. We have to mentally be reminded of it and challenge ourselves as listeners to see past the familiar.
Vanderslice has proven that he no longer has to be a songwriter for the masses and tell stories flowing outward. Since the pandemic and The Cedars, vulnerability and inward reflection has allowed him to release a slew songs that explores new frontiers and breaks down his own walls. LSD, as the album title refers to, has been the seasoning to this creative enlightenment and you have to walk into this album that Vanderslice wants to challenge you and see beyond the familiar.
Treat Crystals 3.0 like a conversation that you could see having with Vanderslice in the middle of a living room floor. The storytelling shifts more into effect and the Los Angeles mentality of a new reality than the way words can convey. Like Robin Rimbaud did to surveillance, Vanderslice creates through electronic vulnerability that blurs into versatility. In “Crystal 9,” you feel him reaching back into his youth and capturing that melancholy spirit to “Crystals 31” and an expansion of ‘60s-style tropicalia and reggae dimensional through time and space or being a voyeur and dropped into an uncomfortable situation as “Crystals 29” transforms mood.
Crystals 3.0 may be supplementary for some and challenging for others, but you will find it to be Vanderslice at his most musically honest.