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Sorry Vampire

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Album Review

John Ralston may have received an early career boost from his association with emo kingpin Chris Carrabba, but Sorry Vampire has more in common with sedate power pop than Dashboard Confessional's insular acoustics. Ralston places as much emphasis on the album's expansive production as the songs themselves, with gauzy layers of acoustic guitar, strings, and omnipresent harmonies piling themselves atop his double-tracked voice. Give him an Ambien, and Ralston's artfully weary vocals might stray into overwrought Conor Oberst territory. As it stands, however, his voice is calmly confident and flanked by miniature indie pop symphonies — so that even when Ralston sings about loneliness and depression (which he does on the bulk of this sophomore effort), he rarely sounds lonely and depressed. "You never cared, so why would you start now?" he asks during the whimsical "A Small Clearing," whose effervescent keyboards and insistent percussion help offset the song's somber content. Similarly, the leadoff track "Fragile" is actually quite sturdy, its alt rock riff boosted by syncopated handclaps and cooing harmonies. The contrast is effective, especially on the gorgeous set-closer "Where You Used to Sleep" (whose outro comprises 90 seconds of Beach Boys-styled a cappella), but Sorry Vampire shines just as bright when instrumental uplift is paired with likeminded lyrics. "No One Loves You Like I Do" is an unapologetic anthem, complete with a chiming glockenspiel-filled chorus and drums lifted from Coldplay's A Rush of Blood to the Head. It's the only genuinely positive track on the album, but it also proves that Ralston's music doesn't hinge completely on the singer's melancholy. And really, what does Ralston have to be sad about? Sorry Vampire easily matches — if not eclipses — his Needle Bed debut.


Born: Lake Worth, FL

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

As lead singer of the Legends of Rodeo, John Ralston found himself with no money and no contract after label problems plagued the release of his band's first album, A Thousand Friday Nights. The Florida native suddenly had no public outlet for his music, but a chance encounter with recording engineer Michael Seaman brought back the luck that Ralston had recently lost in the label split. The two hit it off immediately, and Seaman subsequently invited Ralston to spend some time at his home in Knoxville,...
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Sorry Vampire, John Ralston
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