Daniel Tures, Hollywood 06/08/2012
L.A. cult weirdo Ariel Pink has been leading the underground vanguard of home-taping psychedelic pop for over a decade, but he’s finally taken it to the (more or less) mainstream with a vengeance. Before Today finds him on 4AD, with a real band (including the excellent rhythm section of Tim Koh and Aaron Sperske), gorgeously trippy roller rink production, and the best set of songs of any of his or anyone else’s albums in recent memory. It’s a glorious song symphony, a feast of AM gold pop choruses, creepy synth washes, future vintage new wave cyberfunk, ugly bad-trip prog sludge, and some truly heart-stirring old-fashioned rock loveliness. The song “Round and Round” in particular is a jaw-droppingly great summer love jam, which could take the place of “Billie Jean” or “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” in a sufficiently wiggy alternate universe. Much blog blather (and terms like “chillwave” and “hauntology”) have been unleashed trying to explain the drugged-out production style, the seeming abundance of retro references, and the freaky sense of humor, to those who are apparently just baffled by such things. But in a nutshell, Ariel Pink is solidly in line with a long tradition of brilliant pop subverters going back to 10CC, Sparks, and Brian Eno (some might include Zappa and Steely Dan), and continuing through guys like R. Stevie Moore, but with a stiff dose of Anglo-wave like the Cure, Wire, and Joy Division on the side. If you like any of that stuff, chances are you’ll love this. If you aren’t aware of the existence of any of that stuff (as most bloggers seem not to be) it’ll probably make you angry and confused. Anyway, don’t be thrown off by the stylistic oddities, definitely dive into this and you’ll fall in love with your stereo. Album of this year, probably album of the last five years, and I wish stuff this good came out more frequently so it would have a little more company. Kudos to Mr. Pink and may this be the first of many amazing studio albums to come!