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It’s not a surprise to discover that Andrew McAllister, the main man behind the Los Angeles combo Vanish Valleys, is a film editor by vocation. Film editors make their living by taking raw film footage and picking and choosing what goes where – in many ways, the editor has as much say in the final form of a movie as the director does. McAllister brings his editor’s eye to Vanish Valley, mixing elements from different genres into an organic whole.
“Races,” a track from Vanish Valley’s second album Get Good, is at heart an alt-country track reminiscent of The Jayhawks or Wilco at the more traditional minded end of their spectrum. The song’s tempo and harmonica hook are pure Americana, but then McAllister and Vanish Valley wrap the song in indie-rock ambience, awash in rough sonic edges and a guitar line that recalls college-rock greats like Let’s Active or the Vulgar Boatmen if they’d been covered in sagebrush rather than kudzu.
It’s hard to get a handle on exactly what genre “Races” slots into – just when it seems like it’s one thing, it subtly becomes something else. Like a well-assembled film, “Races” builds a sustained mood from disparate pieces but withholds enough of its secrets to make repeat listenings a necessity.