September 18th, 2011 | Album reviews


Dreaming of Paris/Wall Street (two 7″ singles)


The sleeping giant rises! Once resting in the San Gabriel Foothills, Van Dyke Parks returns, carrying in his head a brain that thinks in colors, sings in poetry and speaks in paragraphs. He’s the criminally under-praised architect of Song Cycle and Discover America, the eloquent advocate for all things ignored and American, and the less we say about Smile, the more you read about this: His newest 7″ series warmly welcomes you inside and out with “Dreaming of Paris,” a mellow calypso cooler drenched in strings, red wine, memories of American tragedy and a Parisian squeezebox, naturally. Turn it over and “Wedding in Madagascar” sends you South to an island bigger than his beloved Trinidad, but on the same cool wavelength. But the series—and I fear I’m speaking prematurely, as there’s more coming—hits its stride on “Wall Street,” penned just a year after the towers fell and before we learned—again, still—Manhattan rots from inside the minds of its moneyed denizens. But this is no love letter, no indictment, but a cinematic diary putting into verse the panic America shared in our last great collective cry: “WAAAAALL STREEEEEET” he wails (surely nodding to the Song Cycle opener of the “Vine” variety), adding “And in the confetti is human desire. Love-letters lost in space, now smoking.” The single’s other side shows Wall Street, too: “Money is King” which, despite being a 30-plus-year-old cover, stares coldly into the empty eyes of our recession’s shameless architects and asserts: this is your mess, fuckers.

-Kevin Ferguson