Ariel Pink’s music is unmistakable. It is music made from another time. Pink developed a sound some say he pioneered called hypnagogic pop – exhausting terminology that basically means music built out of nostalgia, and in this specific case, the 80’s. Big synths, sweet rock songs, ballads and catchy melodies but also with a dark side. Sounds that are undeniably familiar, but because of Pink’s musical signature, impossible to pinpoint.
On Pink’s latest project, Dedicated to Bobby Jameson, the influences dip and dive, but there is a certain haze over the entire album. Some songs take a page out of The Beach Boys book, others could be Devo b-sides. Songs that could be found with a smokey, VHS quality music video, and other songs that could be sung on a beach with some four-part harmonies.
The album’s opener, “Time to Meet Your God,” is on the Devo spectrum of influences. An off-kilter paced, synth-heavy tune that could be accompanied by robotic movements and lots of eyeliner definitely brings the listener in—if for any reason just to see where it goes. By the second song, Pink’s mission statement is heard—taking styles and putting his filter on them to the point where they are not songs that sound like The Cure, but songs that sound like Ariel Pink.
In its familiarity there is a reaching hand, taking the listener to wherever the next song is. Whether it’s a psychedelia-tinged 70’s, like the song “Dedicated to Bobby Jameson” or the after school drive-in burger stand fantasy in “Bubble Gum Dream,” at every stop Ariel is there, dressed appropriately, guiding the listener to his state of mind.
These songs have a specific feeling connected to each. “Another Weekend” is a weightless, acoustic song with dreamy pops of synth until it breaks into a wavy bridge crescendoing until it goes back into the verse, “Another weekend out of my life/ And I can shake off my worries/ Another weekend I can’t rewind/ Another day not working for me.”
As far as the lows for this album, there aren’t many. The album is an Ariel Pink signed journey through moods and eras of sound. Pink even dives into the punk world with the song “Return of the Iceman,” which is an obvious outlier from the mood of the rest of the album, but on its own stands as a great punk song so it gets a bit of a pass.
Verdict: Nostalgia is not the thing making this a great album. For years, Ariel Pink has been a tried and true poster child for making the type of music where and whenever. Pink’s lofty, soft voice bends and molds to his stylings, and every song has a big hook or almost always a melody that will be stuck in the listener’s head. It is incredibly impressive that Pink has been doing this style effectively for so long. It showcases how good of a songwriter he is. Sometimes sexy, sometimes scary, sometimes poppy and always catchy, Pink has his songs figured out.
Best Songs: “Feels Like Heaven,” “Another Weekend,” “Kitchen Witch”