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John Vanderslice, ‘Emerald City’ (Barsuk)

With a gift for creating troubled, realistic characters, gloomy San Francisco songwriter John Vanderslice excels at evoking a simmering dread, and Emerald City may be his most unsettling work yet. Tense folk-pop melodies and sorrowful vocals offer zero comfort in these portraits of loss, which range from a mother coping with a child’s murder to survivors who can’t forget burning towers and vaporized dust. Describing “dripping blood on the road,” the lovely yet horrific “The Minaret” is the ultimate antiwar song for today.

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