Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti

Before Today

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Ariel Pink calls Before Today his first album. Technically, that's far from the truth: he has more than a few collections of songs under his belt, but many of those albums, such as House Arrest, Lover Boy, and Scared Famous, came from a creative burst Pink had in the early 2000s and were issued and reissued years later. During that time, chillwave, an entire genre inspired by his mix of ‘70s and ‘80s AM pop touchstones and woozily nostalgic lo-fi production, blossomed in his absence. However, Before Today does feel like a fresh start. It's Pink's most cohesive work yet, relatively speaking that is. While this is the first of his albums recorded in a professional studio, there's still a film coating his music. Before Today's lush harmonies and synths sound polished but slightly faded, like a cassette that’s been dubbed over a few times and left in a glove box for a couple of years instead of a couple of decades. This higher fidelity just underscores how weird Pink's music is. He sings about getting a disease in a hot tub in the clammy, sleazy album-opener "Hot Body Rub," grunting like a bad James Brown impersonator while saxophones drone. It’s also hard to imagine many other artists who would open a blue-eyed soul song with a car chase ("Beverly Kills") or mix lysergic verses with pop-metal choruses and call it "Butt House Blondies." Elsewhere, Pink mashes up a wider range of genres: the frothy instrumental "Reminiscences" is the world’s coolest and campiest elevator music, while "Revolution's a Lie" closes the album with driving post-punk. And while songs like "L'Estat" are almost too dense and busy to keep up with, Pink's pop finesse shines on his cover of the Rockin' Ramrods' "Bright Lit Blue Skies," the equally breezy and creepy "Fright Night," and the album's single, "Round and Round," which suggests Synchronicity-era Police. Even when the music calms down, he can't resist some head-scratching wordplay, as on "Can’t Hear My Eyes'" just-off-the-yacht soft rock, where Pink sighs, "I want a lady as beautiful as the sunset on a strip,” or on the gender-blurring "Menopause Man," where he sings, "You’re trying too hard to be yourself." He doesn’t have that problem on Before Today; even with some of the lo-fi mystique removed, Ariel Pink is still a singular talent.

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