Owner of San Francisco's Tiny Telephone recording studio (a favorite of indie stars like Spoon and Okkervil River), John Vanderslice makes solo records like you'd expect an engineer to, tricking out his singer-songwriter pop with lots of headphone-ready bells and whistles. But he's also a gifted storyteller, one who rarely indulges his multitracking jones if a song's narrative isn't strong enough to support it. More of his clients should follow his lead. Show up early for Seattle-based Laura Veirs, who's made two excellent albums for Nonesuch, including 2005's Year of Meteors. A brainy Colorado native, Veirs writes with a nature lover's eye for metaphysics. In the studio her producer Tucker Martine fleshes out that art-folk perspective; onstage Veirs strips down but doesn't fade away.
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