Today has finally, finally arrived and it is glorious. This Tuesday marks a mega-ginormous day of stellar new releases, the likes of which the much-ballyhooed month of May never quite reached.
Leading the way is L.A. lo-fi indie rockers Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti with their fantastic effort Before Today. I had to choose this album due to personal preference -- if you will recall I wrote about the Los Angeles Times' streaming of the album last week -- but that is not to take way from other strong efforts from bands such as Tame Impala, Blitzen Trapper, Delorean, Tokyo Police Club, The Roots and Rooney (okay, okay, perhaps not that last one) who find themselves releasing albums today.
What I have noticed about Before Today is that it is an absolute grower of an album -- a piece of music that gets right under your skin in all the best ways after repeated listens. Ariel Pink's genius -- and yes, I mean genius -- is splattered all over this effort, and perhaps his weirdest take, "L'Estat (Acc. to the Widow's Maid)" displays this most brilliantly. That's not to say the song's structure is beyond bizarre and Pink's singing style often ranges on an incoherent 4 year-old. Despite this offbeat feel, the song is charmingly catchy and demands repeat listens, as does the rest of this polished, insanely refreshing album.
What the rest of the critics are saying:
Pitchfork: We know from interviews that Ariel Pink grew up absorbing throwaway pop from the 70s and 80s, finding a way to make it all fit into his cracked worldview. Something overlooked about those songs, though, is that the people writing them were pros who knew something about intros, codas, and middle-eights, how a certain kind of chord change can cause the turnaround to the chorus to hit a little harder. Ariel Pink's best songs are surprising, and there's a real sense of musical delight on Before Today; the sections sound logical but never predictable, and there are wild bridges and short bits that emerge seemingly randomly but wind up taking the song somewhere unexpected. So "L'estat (Acc. to the Widow's Maid)" goes from a rollicking organ-led opening section to a catchy call-and-response chorus hook the Monkees might have liked to a short double-time instrumental section to a jubilant coda, and all the while the stitches never show. Songs like "Little Wig" have so many interesting interlocking parts that they can almost feel proggy, despite their relative brevity and tight pop structures.
: Other highlights arrive in the 70s Bowie funk snark of opener Hot Body Rub, Bright Lit Blue Skies' quietly euphoric pop radio charge, L'estat's synth whirl and Reminiscences' pleasant, aquatic drift. In fact, every track on this superb album is a winner - and, draped in the quiet glamour, fun and stateliness of bygone radio pop-rock, evidence that Ariel has emerged from his bedroom to exact his revenge on Hollywood's Hills.
: Rosenberg's mad scientist tendencies come to the fore here. While fans may recognise tracks such as 'L'estat (Acc. To The Widow's Maid)' and 'Can't Hear My Eyes' from previous compilations, they've now been updated, and reworked for a full band. The murky pop sensibility that had previously reared its head in tracks such as 'Alisa' and 'Kate, I Wait' now resounds clear. The tail end of 'Round And Round' recalls Deacon Blue's 'Fergus Sings The Blues', and 'Can't Hear My Eyes' is almost Hall & Oates - if they read the Hipster Runoff blog.
Drowned In Sound
: Where many current artists so easily lapse into pastiche when drawing on certain signifiers from the past for inspiration, there's something richer at work here, a depth in the songwriting, an intricacy and care to the arrangements, a sense that Ariel Pink has immersed himself in the music that inspired him and worked hard to turn it inside out and extract something new from it. This isn't a few Eighties synth presets stuck through a distortion pedal--it's music that resonates far beyond a simple aping of well established precedents, often managing to be funny, sad and thought provoking in the space of a single track. Now, if Pink can channel more of his past glories (primarily the compressed claustrophobia of the epic 'Trepanated Earth' from Worn Copy) into this new wax polished world, he may end up with his very own Tusk.
is out now via 4AD