Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti | Before Today
Most Likely To: improve your summer.
Before Today is a prescient title for Ariel Pink, since before today Pink was a niche artist with a cult following, but after today he is one of the year’s most hyped performers. As soon as Pitchfork added Before Today to the 9.0 club, the blogosphere erupted in praise for Pink’s genius. Boom. Pow. We didn’t know much about you before today, but we prepare to anoint you, oh Pink one.
Oddly enough, I’m beginning to think that Pink, who has the reputation for being something of a weirdo, is a little bit psychic. He sings, “I can’t stop the press / don’t want to stop it” on the groovy, up tempo track “Beverly Kills.” Perhaps on the next record we’ll hear him intone, “You can’t see me / I am invisible to backlash.”
The task of placing an artist’s contribution in context is nearly impossible to do accurately the moment the record is released. I don’t care if Pink resurrected lo-fi, inspired the garage punk revival, or birthed chillwave. (That’s a lot to ascribe to a dude who seems to spend most of his time at home!) But I have spent a lot of time listening to Before Today. It’s pretty good, actually.
Before Today is a low-key epic that requires your attention from start to finish if you want to wring the most out of its lazy theatricality. On “Round and Round,” for instance, a phone rings (and is answered), launching an ‘80s-inspired chorus. Before Today is also fun. “Butthouse Blondies” is a freaky, psych-tinged sing-a-long with vocals that sky dive from falsetto to bass and a fantastic syncopated bass line that pulses along over the sound of sampled sounds of gasps and moans. See, fun! Like a trip to the carnival to watch a geek hammer nails into his head.
It’s impossible to take in everything about Before Today on the first listen because it’s so chaotic and crowded with layered detail, like a junk shop where you’re pretty sure to find a great buy if you just look hard enough. Pink ensures Before Today is bursting with sonic treasures, but everything is recorded just slightly out of reach, so you really can listen to the whole thing without being overwhelmed. He reminds me of early Bowie or Kevin Barnes because he refuses to limit himself to a particular decade or stylistic discipline, yet he clearly stamps each song with over-the-moon eccentricities. Pink will endure as a singular talent if he continues to filter his peculiarities through the moving target of music’s kaleidoscopic lens.
Watch the video for “Bright Lit Blue Skies” from Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti: