Essential New Music: Will Johnson’s “Swan City Vampires”


Will Johnson’s bottomless well of quality songcraft has obviously not hit a lull since the demise of his quintessential guitar-rock quartet, Centro-matic, last year. On the contrary, Swan City Vampires is almost an extension of the Centro sound, at times fl ailing back to the art-folk quietness of a South San Gabriel record, the alternate moniker of Centro-matic when the amps are down and/or nonexistent.

Opening with the familiar cacophony of sound emitted by Johnson and his guitar in the form of “Paradise, Basically,” the instrumental dissertation sets the tone for what follows sonically. The six-minute-plus “Nameless, But A Lover” leaves plenty of room for sonic drudgery and repartee; his sparse-yetpoignant lyrical motif seemingly says more with wood, wire, ivory and drums than mere words. Ultimately, Johnson does it again, one of the best (and underrated) songwriters of our generation.

—Scott Zuppardo