Tonight's Concert Pick: John Vanderslice at Johnny Brenda's - WXPN
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If Edith Wharton’s macabre novella Ethan Frome were to be made into a movie, John Vanderslice and Minna Choi (of Magik*Magik Orchestra) would score it. Actually, someone already made the movie—but the soundtrack surely isn’t as fitting as Vanderslice’s latest album, White Wilderness, would have been. The album—released in January—is a departure from Vanderslice’s normal recording style; Wilderness feels like driving down a desolate dirt road on a New England winter night, with no signs of life in sight and your eyes playing tricks with the shadows on the bare trees. Even instruments that are usually cheery (or, at the very least, bright)—flutes, brass—take on a dark, sometimes deranged tone under Choi’s direction. It’s certainly cinematic: eerie and melancholy, with a great deal of lonely woodwinds and strings, and Vanderslice’s voice breaking at all the right places. The title track evokes exactly what the words imply—starkness, isolation, and a slowly growing depression, with hardly a major key in sight. An Edith Wharton character would feel right at home. John Vanderslice performs with Damien Jurado at 8 p.m. at Johnny Brenda’s; tickets to the 21+ show are $12. —Danielle Wayda

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