Album Picks: Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Bill Fay, Lorelei, Plus Albums Out Today

Posted by Billy Gil, August 21, 2012 06:46pm | Post a Comment
ariel pinkI haven’t had any picks per se over the past couple of weeks. Truth be told there just wasn’t that much I was excited about. Then this week comes Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti’s new album, Mature Themes. I was concerned about this one — reports of the band breaking up, then not; an inter-band lawsuit; and a lovely yet somber cover (“Baby”) chosen as the first single. But not to worry; Mature Themes proves to be a tongue-in-cheek title, though its title track does tuck quarter-life crisis neatly into clever lines and jaunty ’70s AM Gold (“I wish I was taller than 5-foot-four/Thirty-five years old/My life spent computing it all”). Ariel Pink has a way of making even self-destruction sound amusing, bouncing lyrics like “Who sank my battleship? I sank my own battletrip” off gooey guitar riffs and organs on Mature Themes’ opener, “Kinski Assasin” (another sample lyric: “suicide dumplings dropping testicle bombs”). It’s as much fun as its predecessor, Ariel Pink’s lo-fi pop breakthrough, Before Today, but with more of a focus on songcraft. “Only in Dreams” has its fair share of neat production flourishes, but it wouldn’t need them to send its ’60s pop hooks into your brain. And with repeated listens, the breadth of bargain-bin pop and forgotten sources reconfigured through Ariel Pink’s art school lens becomes more apparent, and more bewildering. Is “Live it Up” meant to sound like the dream-pop soundtrack to an early NES game? Is “Symphony of the Nymph” both the name and theme song to a sexy straight-to-VHS ’80s comedy? Is “Schnitzel Boogie” actually a boogie, and does that mean I should learn more about boogie? With Ariel Pink, every song seems to occupy its own little sound wave, and surfing between their brilliant colors makes all others seem monochromatic in comparison.
bill fayAlso out today is the first album in 40 years from British singer-songwriter Bill Fay. I hadn’t heard Fay’s music previously, but after hearing the stunning Life is People, I’ll be sure to check out his earlier work. “There is a Valley” is a spiritual of sorts personifying the trees, sheep and flowers that surround humanity, detailing how they’ve born witness to the destruction caused by humanity. It doesn’t come off as preachy, but rather, when taken with the album’s title, allows its listeners to see the bigger picture of humanity as one element that impacts its environment more than any other. It helps that Fay’s voice evokes rare wisdom, like a subtler Leonard Cohen or calmer Patti Smith. While many of the songs on Life is People invite somber meditation, based around ominous orchestration, there’s also a fighting spirit that saves Life is People from too much cynicism — even as lines call to mind the struggles of the working poor on “This World,” a collaboration from admirer Jeff Tweedy (of Wilco, who covered Fay’s “Be Not So Fearful” in their documentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart), the song benefits from a sunny, alt-country delivery. Similarly, “The Healing Day” is so lush that even its bittersweet tone feels comforting, as Fay sings a simple line like “it’ll be OK” and sends shivers down your spine. But you don’t have to take my word for it — listen to a full album stream below and pick up a copy of Life is People.


loreleiLast week saw another release from an artist who hadn’t released music in a long while — Slumberland Records alumn Lorelei, who returned to their native label with their first new album of material since 1994 with Enterprising Sidewalks. I’m amazed the band, who didn’t get their due during their heyday, was able to regroup with such cool and such control. A song like “Hammer Meets Tongs” displays the group’s strength in harnessing its guitar noise for just the right moments, building them into a greater composition — in this case, a foggy indie-rock trip that builds the through line from Lorelei peers like Pavement to modern descendants like Wild Nothing (preorder their album Nocturne here, due next week) before firing off shoegaze guitar blasts. “Wound Up” and “Let Go of Our Egos” supply dreamy, spindly guitarwork with jagged melodies in equal doses. Any band can play it languid and dreamy, or fiery and loud, all the time; Lorelei does it better by mixing vinegar into the sugar.
Out today:
bloc partyBloc Party - Four

It’s been a decade since the pogoing sounds of Silent Alarm, and though Bloc Party rarely returns to that sound — they show they can, with winning results on “V.A.L.I.S.” and “Team A” — Four successfully finds the band, who many feared were done for, full of purpose once again on an alt-rock vibing new album.

yeasayerYeasayer –
Fragrant World

Fragrant World is most accessible album yet from Brooklyn psych-pop quintet Yeasayer. Perhaps inspired by years of stadium shows and touring, the band dials back the new age vibes of their debut, All Hour Cymbals, and the vibrant experimentalism of Odd Blood. In their place is a hookier, more pop-embracing version of Yeasayer, one who isn’t above crafting ace electro-funk (“Devil and the Deed”) and and lush synth-pop (“Fingers Never Bleed”).

the darkness hot cakesThe Darkness - Hot Cakes

The Darkness are back after an extended absense and still write earnest, funny, willfully rocking and irresistible songs about love, rocking and loving to rock. “Nothing’s Going to Stop Us” displays the band’s knack for catchy yet unpredictable riffery and soaring, harmonious choruses — you can’t help but root for them when that chorus hits.

dreamscapeDreamscape - La-Di-Da Recordings

Reissued early '90s shoegaze glory. Read all about Dreamscape on Brad's blog.

six organsSix Organs of Admittance - Ascent

Guitarist Ben Chasny returns with another psych-folk release as Six Organs of Admittance.

teengirl fantasyTeengirl Fantasy - Tracer

The second album from the electro/ambient duo features guest appearances by Laurel Halo and Panda Bear.

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Ariel Pink (33), Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti (3), Lorelei (1), Bill Fay (1), Bloc Party (7), Yeasayer (8), The Darkness (4), Dreamscape (2), Six Organs Of Admittance (7), Teengirl Fantasy (1), New Albums (213), New Releases (215)