By Eduardo Baz
Artist: Ariel Pink
Album: Dedicated to Bobby Jameson
Label: Mexican Summer
Release Date: September 15, 2017
Ariel Marcus Rosenberg, primarily known by his moniker Ariel Pink, has for years been redefining what a pop song can be. He has been fusing a wide variety of sounds that range from ’60s psychedelia to ’80s synth pop, while still defining and maintaining his own unique sound. Pink’s early work brought us several lo-fi self-released records that provide a plethora of reverb soaked guitar/synth melodies and strange yet catchy pop choruses. By the 2010s, Pink began to shy away from self-recording and moved towards more studio production, still maintaining his eccentric charm. Albums such as Mature Themes (2012) and Pom Pom (2014) reflect this transition by still delivering songs that are heavily soaked with obscure influences from genres such as glam rock and punk. Dedicated to Bobby Jameson (2017), however, revisits the sounds of Pink’s early works and manages to craft something entirely new and refreshing.
The opening track “Time to Meet Your God” immediately introduces the listener to the obscurity and oddity that comes with listening to an Ariel Pink album. The constant syncopation with Pink’s vocals and the eerie synth sounds deliver a fast-paced introduction. While one of the weaker songs on the tracklist, “Time to Meet Your God” does a good job of introducing the listener to what an Ariel Pink album typically entails. The record then follows up this opening track by delivering the dream pop ballad “Feels Like Heaven” which is reminiscent of a nostalgic ’80s new wave song. There are various layers of dreamy sounds and synths all layered on top of one another that transmit the listener into an alternate reality where a new form of pop exists.
However, as soon as this more approachable piece of dream-pop ends, Pink takes us back into his mysterious mind and delivers tracks “Death Patrol” and “Santa’s in the Closet” which, in their respective ways, both exhibit and embody Pink’s more experimental pop. “Death Patrol” utilizes nostalgic bass lines that sound like they are straight out of Peter Gunn’s theme, and “Santa’s in the Closet” uses repeating synth chords that sound like they came from a much darker version of “Subdivisions” by Rush.
The album continues to surprise the listener throughout. One moment Pink is giving us a more radio friendly dreamy pop song (with Pink’s added flair of course), the next he is giving us a guitar drenched garage jam describing “Bubblegum Dreams.” There is simply no predicting what comes next when progressing through the tracklist and this could not be more refreshing when it comes to variety. No two songs are the same, yet none are so substantially different as to where they can not align towards a universal sound and theme.
Although Pink has gone back into producing something that screams lo-fi, Dedicated to Bobby Jameson (2017) has lost no polish in the process when compared with his most recent works. There is still a sense of overall theme and cohesion when examining Pink’s newest record. Every song is extremely different, yet interconnected with one another, providing an album that is mysterious, different, and impossible to replicate.