Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti: Playing on Prefix

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Playing on Prefix is a feature on KCRW’s Music Blog in which writers from the eclectic music site Prefix hip you to what’s coming out of their computer speakers each week.

By Matt MacFarland

sui generis musicians who don’t fit neatly into our Pandora station-boxes.

Describing Pink involves the use of necessarily overused hyphen-words like “low-fi,” “freak-folk” and “drug-addled,” which gave way to the more straightforward “fascinating.”

Listening to 2010’s “Before Today – a pastiche of musical tropes more appropriate to the years 1975 to 1985 (give or take) – is an absolute trip. “Round and Round” was correctly praised as one of the year’s best songs for its rhythms and restraint, its self-awareness and that utterly massive, beautiful chorus.

I’m also a sucker for unhinged personalities and for clearly important legacies.

First, there’s Pink’s reputation for volatility, which is well deserved. There was his so-called meltdown at Coachella in 2011, the frustration of writing “Before Today”, which included his brief quitting of the band, and this little gem of an interview, in which Pink drops some Based-God-master-chef-quality wisdom: “How many seconds has it been since the universe – since time – began?”

In that moment, it seems like a genuine concern for the guy. And you know what? I, too, would like to know how many seconds it’s been. The mathematical implications rightfully boggle the mind. It’s all very n+1.

So it came as a wonderful surprise to everyone that “Before Today” was both so polished, so put-together, so anti-Pink and still so undeniably his.

Mature Themes” – out today — is Haunted Graffiti’s second studio LP with 4AD. It promises more of that shine and, if “Only in My Dreams” and “Baby,” the two singles we’ve so far been blessed with are any indication, a further distillation of the pop sensibilities so evident in Pink’s work. “Only in My Dreams” is a fairly direct descendant of “Round and Round”; it’s an almost artificial-sweetener of a song.

Then there’s “Baby,” a cover from the newly rereleased, lovingly remastered Dreamin’ Wild by Donnie & Joe Emerson, everyone’s pick for best underground underdog story of 2012. Haunted Graffiti collaborated with Dam-Funk for the track, which is very faithful to the original, and it’s just dripping with soul and desire.

Dam-Funk’s raspy vocals turn whatever youthful pining there was in the original into straight-up lust. That we’re early in another decade in the 21st century, not in 1979, and that a song like this can be recaptured and given to the world – honestly, it just gives me chills. It’s an achingly good slow jam that everybody should be dancing to at all times – since the universe began to this very second.