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Ariel Pink: Pom Pom

ariel pinkAriel Pink
Pom Pom
(4AD)

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If you award points for originality, Ariel Pink should always be on your playlist. He manages the neat trick of sounding like no one else, while taking you on a tour of forty years of music history. Pink’s relationship to pop is the same as The Book of Mormon’s is to musicals – he manages to satirize rock ‘n’ roll, while making great rock ‘n’ roll.

Pink is so self-conscious it’s painful. His trash talking in the press certainly doesn’t help him get taken seriously, but don’t get it twisted. Ariel Pink is one of the most talented artists of this decade. When he plays it straight, he writes sloppy, catchy, idiot-proof choruses. But he always follows with something ridiculous and disruptive, just in case you’re getting too comfortable.

On his breakthrough album, 2010’s Before Today, Pink added a new coat of polish to his previous lo-fi experiments. Songs like “Round and Round” showed a new maturity and focus.

Pom Pom is a step forward and backward. Much of the album is Ariel Pink at his most indulgent. Songs like “Jell-O” are about, well… Jell-o. “Dinosaur Carebears” should tell you all you need to know from the title – It starts with a middle eastern raga, turns into trashy glam rock, takes a detour into speak-and-spell children’s music and then jams out on reggae (seriously!) for three agonizing minutes.

Pink counters these excesses with the best songwriting he’s ever done. “Picture Me Gone” is a heartbreaking meditation on our disposable digital memories. “Lipstick” is a catchy pop ditty drenched in ‘80s irony. “Put Your Number In My Phone” has a touch of early R.E.M., some Belle and Sebastian, and Roger McGuinn style chimey electric guitar with gorgeous and unexpected chord changes. “Dayzed Inn Daydreams” is the best Mamas & the Papas song never written.

If Pink ever decided to make an album’s worth of these shimmering pop masterpieces, we’d be talking about the best record of the year, but he’ll probably never do that. He either lacks the attention span to play it straight or he simply doesn’t care to. Ariel Pink dares you to tune out in so many ways, but that would be a huge mistake.

 

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About Dan Siegler

Dan Siegler is a music producer/composer/songwriter from NYC. He has an inexhaustible supply of opinions and expresses them freely at Short and Sweet NYC and Baeble Music as well as to strangers in bars.
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