Forty-five years on from his debut album, Song Cycle, American arranger, lyricist and musical scholar Van Dyke Parks (the Beach Boys, Joanna Newsom) compiles a dozen recent(ish) works to mark turning 70. Those coming fresh to Parks may find his reedy voice, and his warping of time, requires some adjustment. Aficionados of Parks's highly maverick take on pre-rock songcraft, however, will relish these updates, which take in his penchant for accordions, calypso and folk. The breeziness of these forms belies the turbulent emotions at the heart of songs such as Wall Street (written in the aftermath of 9/11) and Black Gold (about the Prestige oil spill of 2002).
Kitty Empire is the Observer's pop critic. She has written for NME and occasionally crops up on Radio 4, 5Live, BBC 6Music, and has appeared on BBC2's The Culture Show and Newsnight Review. @kittyempire666