Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti
"Step into my time warp now," Ariel Pink sings on Is This the Best Spot? from Mature Themes. That time warp leads directly to a phantasmagoric mishmash of 1970s radio memories, both FM and AM, that is as indebted to Frank Zappa as it is to Hall & Oates, to Sparks as to Gary Numan, to Brian Eno as to Curtis Mayfield.
The album whiplashes among styles, from goofy ephemera (with proudly immature themes) such as the trudging, distorted Schnitzel Boogie and the synth-pop-meets-spaghetti-western Symphony of the Nymph to catchy, irresistible keepers such as the shimmering, harmony-rich Only in My Dreams and the slinky, soulful Baby, an obscure cover of a Donnie and Joe Emerson non-hit.
Pink, the Los Angeles-based musician who was discovered by the hipster rock icons Animal Collective, has left behind his lo-fi roots, even more so than on 2010's offering, Before Today, but he hasn't abandoned his unpredictability.
Coherent it's not: it's head-scratchingly diverse, but it's a time warp worth exploring.
Steve Klinge (McClatchy-Tribune)
A Thing Called Divine Fits
A patchwork of other patchworks, the indie-rock musicians who make up Divine Fits sometimes seem like rock fans above all else: Britt Daniel from Spoon, Dan Boeckner from Wolf Parade, and Sam Brown from the New Bomb Turks.
Which is to say that if their own bands are kind of meta-rock, the trio are kind of meta-meta-rock. Depending on the track, Divine Fits sound like a new-wave guitar band, a synth-pop act, a garage band or an early '70s drone-rock experiment.
Having two singers doesn't split the record in half; there seems to be an almost brotherly relationship here. Boeckner's voice is broad and calm and comes from the chest; Daniel's voice is thinner and slouchier and stranger. Each sings his own songs, and occasionally each other's. But there's a funny continuity between Boeckner and Daniel, like Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane on Miles Davis' Kind of Blue. Somehow, on deeper levels, they overlap.
A Thing Called Divine Fits is full of poses and acts; the bandmates seem to believe in indie rock maybe a little more than they need to.
Ben Ratliff (The New York Times)
On his fifth full-length album, pop-electronic artist Matthew Dear has toned down the dark edginess of his earlier releases for a more accessible but less memorable album.
Dear is one of the more challenging artists working with electronic music, winning plaudits in 2010 with Black City, his fourth and most critically acclaimed work.
The 11 tracks of Beams feature some stand-out tunes - Headcage, the only track from last year's eponymous EP to make it to the album, is the weirdest. With a bubbling, underwater quality reminiscent of the film The Abyss and distant, robotic vocals that are sexy in their withheld emotion, it's also the most compelling track.
There's the uplifting and tender Ahead of Myself, a nostalgia-filled song punctuated with breathless, staccato synth beats, a version of which Dear includes on every album. Other good tunes feature memorable bass lines, or industrial or even calypso influences. But for all its bright spots, Beams lacks a lot of the quirkiness and emotional connection that made Dear's earlier albums cult hits.
Katherine Silkaitis (MCT)