Van Dyke Parks – Songs Cycled
Prolific composer of Americana and orchestrator Parks (probably best known for his work on the Beach Boys’ Smile and Joanna Newsom’s Ys) turned 70 in January. His joyful compilation of recent 7″ singles mixes new songs with revised versions of older compositions, including a Saint-Saens orchestration for steel pans. What’s not to like?
My Bloody Valentine – mbv
It’s satisfying when a band that was meant to be good 20 years ago (this was the first time I’d really listened) turns up unannounced still making the right noises. Bits and pieces of modernisation emerge as the record progresses from an introduction of classical shoegaze, but there’s nothing on mbv that feels dated.
Neon Neon – Praxis Makes Perfect
With Super Furry Animals’ hiatus still ongoing, it’s comforting to hear Gruff Rhys’ voice. He and his Neon Neon collaborator – American producer Boom Bip – have lately cornered (created?) the market in ’80s pastiche synth pop biographies. Their second album is all about Italian communist Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, the original publisher of The Leopard and Doctor Zhivago.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away
Nick Cave’s trademark lyrical themes – sexual depravity, the apocalypse and searches for knowledge from God to the ‘God Particle’ – are all there on his latest album, on which he’s backed by a light-handed Bad Seeds. At least musically, this is among their least aggressive albums, although the tension is maintained by the quiet juddering of Warren Ellis’ loops.