In 1967, after writing for the Beach Boys, Van Dyke Parks persuaded Warner Bros to spend tens of thousands of dollars on eight-track reel-to-reel recorders and studio time all over LA. The result was “Song Cycle” – sprawling, experimental, containing no hits and, despite its title, no real songs.
New artists today have to work with less. Jessica Pratt moved from San Francisco to LA to make her second album, “On Your Own Love Again”, after the death of her mother and a bad break-up. She took an acoustic guitar and a worn copy of “Song Cycle”. Unable to afford a studio, she rigged up some kit in her new bedroom and shut the door. Locked away, she wrote melodies that roam. Her voice, halfway from Vashti Bunyan to Joanna Newsom, lights up her memories: time becomes “a frozen thing/it encloses you in its crystalline” and figures dance “too close behind/to the darling in a hidden shroud”.
Critics file her next to folk singers like Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez, comparisons she rejects. Her sound has shades of Parks’ wonkiness, or the experimental pop of Ariel Pink or Panda Bear. The songs – and there are songs – are as pretty and mysterious as dried flowers in a book. ~ Hazel Sheffield
On Your Own Love Again Drag City, out now. Jessica Pratt tours Europe, Aug 30th to Sept 9th
ROCK AT A GLANCE
Ezra Furman (European tour, Oct 19th to Nov 18th). A man in a dress with a lot to confess, Furman (see below) lands somewhere between Lou Reed at his lightest and the Magnetic Fields at their most accessible. His album “Perpetual Motion People” is a rocking, rolling, ramshackle revelation.
Dawes (touring America, to Aug 23rd; Europe, Aug 27th to Sept 13th; America, Sept 18th to Oct 3rd). Melodic young folk-rockers whose lead singer, Taylor Goldsmith, is shaping up as the most lyrical lyricist to come out of LA since Randy Newman (see Culture), half a century ago.
Richard Hawley (album, Sept 11th; British tour, Oct 25th to Nov 10th). Now Jarvis Cocker is past 50, Hawley is Sheffield’s favourite 40-something. With this album, “Hollow Meadows”, he goes back to ballads, and back to his best. ~ Tim de Lisle