Above All the Lights
Bought Ariel Pink's House Arrest the other day; I am enjoying it, as I enjoy the other two Ariel Pink albums I own. I remain mystified by the virulent reaction he tends to evoke, as for example from our esteemed friends over at Pitchfork, who seem to have it in for Mr. Pink. I never thought I'd say this to anyone, or even suggest it, but people here are perhaps thinking too much. More accurately, perahps they are thinking too early. There's a rush to analysis in the response to these records, which is especially odd in the present age, which usually defers analysis until after every other critical mode has been attempted. Ariel Pink writes frankly stunning pop melodies and finds textures that are rather more lush than they first appear to be; he records them on the cheap and sets occasionally stupid (and occasionally stunning) lyrics to them. As the records have no liner notes, sport unremarkable cover images, and can hardly be accused of commercial ambition, it's difficult to understand the level of animosity they inspire. The tone taken by his detractors suggests an eagerness to preemptively disrobe the emperor. But there is no emperor, nor aspirant; these phantoms are conjured by the same writers who seek to exorcise them a sentence later. There is no windmill at which to tilt. It's weird.
In my experience, an artist doesn't get under writers' skins like this unless he's really onto something. One can imagine one's father accusing Ariel Pink of trying to "cash in," maybe - one can imagine oneself deciding against trying to explain to Dad that Ariel Pink isn't likely to make any money, since he has released four albums whose sound quality is so appalling that the worldwide audience for them could by no means exceed more than a few thousand. But the present situation is rather different. There is something to unpack in it. I don't suspect anyone will be up to the task, though I nominate Simon Reynolds, if he has the time for it, which I'm fairly sure he doesn't. Until he does, though, the question will hang naggingly in the air for me: why do nice people hate Ariel Pink?
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