Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti | Before Today - LP
The peculiar lo-fi trash aesthetics and cassette-sampling songcraft of Ariel Pink have positioned him as the forefather of the chillwave scene and the direct antecedent of key 2010 artists like Washed Out, Small Black and Toro Y Moi. Somehow the Paw Tracks alumnus has become one of the most influential figures in today's underground music scene. However, as tends to be the way with pioneers, Mr Pink and his Haunted Graffiti pals stay one step ahead of the game on 4AD debut Before Today, switching to a live band sound that brilliantly channels soft rock sounds from a bygone era. From the relatively earnest Lindsey Buckingham-isms of 'Bright Lit Blue Skies' to the neon synth-core of 'Fright Night Nevermore' each song sounds like the work of a different band from the last, with only the odd, time-warped studio haze of the production to unite them. Take a listen to the leap between the FM-friendly falsetto funk of 'Beverly Kills' and the surreal, English accent-wielding heavy metal of 'Butt-House Blondies'. As triumphs of album sequencing go, Before Today is brilliantly perverse. The greatest triumph of all however, has to be 'Round And Round' - without doubt one of this year's finest pop songs. It's strangely engineered, structurally unsound and features one of the least convincing synth sax sounds of all time, and yet it's all somehow so perfect. The joyous looping chorus is one of the best things that's happened to this set of ears in a very long time, although however majestic it may be, there's really no getting around the fact that its essentially Deacon Blue's 'Fergus Sings The Blues'. I mean, it's virtually identical. There's a similar story to the almost as good 'Can't Hear My Eyes', which has a close run in (some might say head-on collision) with Journey's 'Who's Crying Now'. It's almost as if Ariel Pink has substituted his former production technique - of patching together frazzled '80s samples - for real-time, live-band imitation of his sources. It's a great trick to pull off, and the tone of both the songs and the production is judged to perfection, sounding far too alien to be dismissed as mere pastiche or homage. One of the year's weirdest and best pop long-players, Before Today comes with a mighty recommendation.