Belle And Sebastian: The Third Eye Centre
Rough Trade, £13.99
* * * *
Such completism is no doubt right up the street of their more obsessive and object-obsessed fans, with a double gatefold vinyl package among the formats.
At 19 tracks, what it lacks in the kind of cohesion you’d expect from a new collection it makes up for in variety. In the main the remixes jump out, beginning with the Avalanches’ bold take on I’m A Cuckoo, as Stuart Murdoch’s effervescent vocal skips over a pleasingly incongruous bed of sea shanty accordions and buoyant, celebratory African voices. Later there come two dancefloor grinds – first the strutting electro thrust of Your Cover’s Blown, as re-imagined by Miaoux Miaoux, then Richard X’s interpretation of I Didn’t See It Coming, located somewhere between the Pet Shop Boys and Saint Etienne thanks to Sarah Martin’s silken voice.
The curse of most B-side collections is inescapable, and it’s plain to see why songs like Suicide Girl and Heaven In The Afternoon (uplifting saxophone part notwithstanding) found themselves to be second choices. Yet these are outweighed by newly discovered moments of satisfaction: the Arthur Lee & Love impression on Your Secrets; the wistful, trumpet-abetted Long Black Scarf; unexpected excursions into reggae with The Eighth Station Of The Cross Kebab Shop and mariachi band style on Mr Richard; and the honky-tonk gallop of Stop, Look And Listen.
Download this: Your Cover’s Blown (Miaoux Miaoux remix)
White Lies: Big TV
* * *
White Lies follow rough contemporaries The Killers and Editors in making pretty noises whose echo-heavy guitars sound pleasant chiming out over a festival stage even as their gutting of everyone from Echo & The Bunnymen to Tears For Fears displays a certain artless mimicry. This concept album about an Eastern European migrant to the big city of London (a laudable ambition, but there’s precious little sense of story in the songs) throws up a few nice, superficially heartbreaking choruses, chiefly the wind tunnel gallop of There Goes Our Love Again, First Time Caller’s frosty sway and the mid-period Simple Minds style of Be Your Man.
Download this: There Goes Our Love Again
Zola Jesus & JG Thirlwell: Versions
Sacred Bones, £13.99
* * * *
Stemming from a performance at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, this unique document paints the songs of Arizonan futurist chanteuse Zola Jesus, aka Nika Rosa Danilova, in an entirely different light. Arranged by minimalist experimental composer JG Thirlwell and performed by the Mivos Quartet, it tears her mournful vocal away from much of its familiar electronic backing on orchestral reimaginings of nine tracks including a slowed-down version of Avalanche and a triumphant Night, accentuating both the quality of the songs and Danilova’s ability as a singer.
Download this: Avalanche (Slow), Fall Back
Dick Hyman & Ken Peplowski: Live At The Kitano
VC4393, via the internet only
* * * *
The masterful wizard of the keyboard Dick Hyman and clarinet/saxophone star Ken Peplowski love to play together, and their occasional duo concerts are always delights. This recording of a get-together at a New York nightclub is a wonderful snapshot of the two of them in action: playful, intelligent, elegant and always unpredictable. Among the treats are the toe-tapping opener The Blue Room, with Peplowski on clarinet and Hyman making a great play of his classical influences, but otherwise it’s the gently swinging ballads which are the main highlights, notably a beautiful Some Other Time, Ugly Beauty and Gone With The Wind.
Download this: Ugly Beauty
Paul McKenna Band: Elements
Greentrax Recordings CDTRAX373, £12.99
* * * *
The Glasgow-based quintet releases a third album for Greentrax and consolidates its position as one of the most popular of the young Scots bands, fronted by the eponymous singer and guitarist. Two older traditional songs, including the Irish navvies’ favourite Mickey Dam are here, but the songs and their arrangements tend to the modern and contemporary, with quite swingy rhythms under fluent flute, fiddle, plucked/picked strings and bodhran. The instruments take two jigs, and leave vocals behind as they succeed in Flying Through Flanders, the only non-vocal track, while the album’s final song was recorded live at a gig on a German tour.
Download this: No Ash Will Burn
Tamsin Waley-Cohen, Huw Watkins: An American In Paris
Champs Hill CHRCD059, £11.99
* * * * *
By 1951, when Vincente Minnelli filmed An American In Paris with Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron, Paris was undergoing its second peacetime invasion of American artists, performers and writers, although the film’s musical inspiration dates from 1928, the time of the first influx, in the wake of the Great War.
This recording, by the able duo of violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen and pianist Huw Watkins, mostly draws on music created during or inspired by that earlier period. Charles Ives’ Decoration Day, begun in 1912 and completed after 1919, sits at the start of this period of change, while Poulenc’s Sonata For Violin And Piano was composed as France was coming to terms with German occupation in the Second World War. Ravel’s Sonata No 2 and excerpts from Porgy And Bess round out this well-balanced recording.
Download this: Decoration Day