Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti

House Arrest

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Originally released in 2002 as part of a split double-CD set, then re-released with a couple of bonus tracks (including the multipart epic "Netherlands") in 2006, House Arrest, much like every other Ariel Pink release so far, provides a small sampling of Ariel Rosenberg's self-recorded compositions, laid down on a trusty eight-track at home. Unlike so many warbling troubadours who seem to think the recorded-in-a-bedroom approach means a license to be maudlin, Rosenberg brings an exuberant joy to his work, finding something that a full band recording might actually kill the spirit of. The queasy tones and gently distanced verses of the opening "Hardcore Pops Are Fun" is instant put-a-smile-on-your-face stuff, helping to set the tone for the whole collection. The demented synth pop merriment of "Flying Circles" suggests an '80s nugget swathed in psychedelic haze, a gentle breeziness apparent on many other songs like the giddy "Every Night I Die at Miyagis" or the nervous funk of "Alisa," easily one of the best songs on the album thanks to some exquisite vocals in particular. Though his connection to personal hero R. Stevie Moore is often mentioned, Rosenberg's role model here often seems to be Andy Partridge instead -- check out the distinctly XTC-like hiccupping on "Gettin' High in the Morning," not to mention the quick herky-jerk arrangements. Rosenberg's preference to add layers of echo on his voice means sometimes his lyrics only emerge in fits and starts, but when they do they often are wryly witty or amusingly theatrical -- it fits with the amusing rock pose on the back cover, a knowing embrace of a trope. So when he sings about how West Coast calamities are worth more than the East Coast variety or how he's one of those egomaniacs "who just want to siiiing," who's to deny how he plays around with the ideas?

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