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Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Mature Themes

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Artist: Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti

Album: Mature Themes

Label: 4AD

Review date: Sep. 12, 2012

Mature Themes begins in such a weird place and only gets weirder, a journey that reinforces both the songwriting skills of Ariel Rosenberg — better known as Ariel Pink — and the importance of “buzz” in the Internet era. Weird places are almost always preferable to normality in art, but most people don’t like weird places — music, film, TV, you name it. For example, even after all the money spent marketing Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie to New York City, it was relegated to just a few theaters. But people certainly do seem to like Rosenberg. His popularity doesn’t rival that of Katy Perry or Skrillex, but he’s certainly got more of a following than some equally odd things I’ve heard, and it’s fascinating that his music has risen above the din.

Let’s leave aside “buzz” — it elevates both deserving and not-deserving art, and in both cases the mechanisms are interesting, but don’t really add anything to the aesthetic discussion. It’s more worthwhile to examine Rosenberg’s pop chops. A lot of our pop associations come out of the 1960s. Reputation has a slow decay (that is, art with a wide influence has that influence for a loooong time) and the pop of that era still has its tentacles in the music of this century. Because that music is so omnipresent, a musician capable of tapping into it in a fundamental way also taps into that deep cultural reservoir that connects to all our minds. Pink is such a musician.

But aping the signature sounds of past eras isn’t enough. Part of the appeal of Mature Themes is the way it places you immediately in an odd place. You are off-kilter from moment one, and the pop/weirdness yin-yang creates a pleasant tension. Between the bizarre environs of each song and Pink’s incredible ear for melody, one is never on steady footing.

Mature Themes is the latest album to make its mark by taking two (or more) disparate feelings or styles or genres and allowing them to co-exist in a way that seems natural. Listening to the album, the weirdness is never off-putting, and the pop elements don’t feel like concessions to a wider audience. Nifty.

By Andrew Beckerman

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