Recent releases reviewed

The Mysterious Production of Eggs Fargo Records ****

This is a mesmerising tour through an imagination rich in knowledge and music. Bird, a Chicago violinist trained in the classical tradition, has been loitering with intent around the margins in recent years. Last time his Weather Systems impressed, but this collection takes it all a step further - more measured, more assured and just plain better. Bird is bright, inquisitive and cool. His songs resonate with intelligence, quirky sensibility and rich melody. His sources are many and varied, from country to jazz, from pop to the classics. And yet he distils everything into a sound that feels perfectly rounded, if a tad detached, his violin, either bowed or plucked, setting the instrumental tenor of music that intrigues as well as entertains. Science never sounded so good. By the way, Jay Ryan's cover and inner sleeve art are exceptional.

Joe Breen

Transistor Radio Matador Records ***

The fourth full album from this Portland, Oregon, singer-songwriter follows the same singular path as its predecessors. Matt Ward has little time for glitzy production and even less for the niceties of the music industry. Transistor Radio is dedicated to the last of the independent DJs - which is taking care of his own because I can't imagine any of his naive music making it to a typical playlist. More's the pity: nestled between the gently strummed instrumentals which bookend this set are a couple of strange but wonderful songs, including Lullaby+Exile. While his quota of memorable melodies and whispered gems is not as high as on his 2003 release, Transfiguration of Vincent, Ward's vision of pop/ folk/blues remains enchanting and timeless, a beguiling mix of guilelessness and gifted amateurism.

Joe Breen