by Tiana Feng
On the cover of Shrink Dust is an animated version of a naked boy being dissolved into a monster. It’s slightly disturbing when you think too much of it but that’s a lot like VanGaalen’s music. On the surface is it is charming and beautiful but beneath it can be some terrifying things.
What sounds like a simple acoustic ballad (“Cut off My Hands”), might actually be the entrance into someone’s mind who is manically depressed. The talk of cutting both hands and popping pills to chase away fears kind of says it all. There’s talk of torture by a jackal.
Stylistically, VanGaalen has gone a bit country, adding his newly obtained pedal steel into the mix (“Weighed Sin”, “Hangman’s Son”). That’s not to say it’s really a country record, there’s plenty of variation, including the noisey garage-rock tune “Where Are You” and the easy-going shoegaze of “Frozen”. When things are getting slow he throws in a guitar-solo heavy “Leaning on Bells”.
Fans of Diaper Island’s “Sara” will enjoy slow-burning “Lila”, lamenting on a love lost. We learn about the “Monster” on the cover in the title first single, which has a playful arrangement. We learn that the monster has quills, hair everywhere, scaley skin, many fingers, talons and more. But he does emphasize he’s not hungry so he won’t eat people and that’s always good. In fact it’s an introverted thing that want’s to dig underground and hide. I found Shrink Dust to be a lot more compelling than Diaper Island ever was. It’s the deepest VanGaalen has ever let us travel into his brain, even if the ride may be occasional frightening.