Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Mature Themes

Rating: ★★★★☆

Ever since I first caught wind of Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti it always seemed like (it actually was) one man’s recording project.  It was steeped in lo-fi recordings, occasionally allowing for the pop elements to leak out into the listener’s ear.  On Mature Themes, throw all your preconceived notions out the window and get ready for Ariel Pink’s pop extravaganza.

I swear that the first time I heard album opener “Kinski Assassin” I thought I had stumbled upon some rare Magnetic Fields track.  Deep vocal tones backed by keyboard backbones are most prevalent, fueled by witty bits of lyrics that might only connect with the songwriter.  It’s actually a solid tune, just not what I expected here. From here it blasts off with “Is This the Best Spot,” which definitely sounds more like Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti have opted to make a video game piece…it’s like the oddball version of Blank Dogs–not necessarily a bad thing.

While the group’s received a lot of praise for their work in the past, I feel as if the accessibility of Mature Themes alone warrants more fans and listeners, though that might steer away the hipster cognoscenti.  “Only In My Dreams” approximates the group’s quirky psych hits, but the production has made way for clarity that makes the record leaps and bounds better than its predecessor.  There’s warm tones from the guitar, relaxed backing vocals and a central pop element…yet it’s definitely still as playful as ever.  “Farewell American Primitive” is another track where the clarity of the pop element provides listeners with a chance to really sink themselves into the song. You can just take one listen to the vocals and you’ll see that this track is moving the band in a more direct approach to songwriting, and that will vastly benefit anyone who picks this up.

Still, I’m not going to get rid of the allusions to Stephin Merritt, though there’s slight differences present.  “Symphony of the Nymph” is another example of a track where Ariel Pink are flirting with more sincerity in their songwriting, using simple rhyme with the lyrics to provide a much-needed hook.  But, of course, the group’s always been built upon pushing the limits of their craft, and even within this track they do it successfully, happily letting the tune take turns left and right, only to return to the central pop song.

Admittedly, I can see that Mature Themes is not nearly as weird and out there as many listeners thought Before Today was.  You’ll find more tunes that allow you to sink your teeth into the lyrics, rather than coat them in meaningless atmospherics and yelps. For some, that’s going to be a detractor, as they want Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti to be their own secret joy, but with some of the best song the band’s constructed to date, that’s not going to be the case this go round.  Ignore the recent drama of the group and ignore the ideas you already have about the group.  If you do so, you’re going to find yourself pleased with a pop record that’s got far more longevity than anything the group’s put together before.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/04-Only-In-My-Dreams.mp3]

Download:Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Only In My Dreams [MP3]

Dum Dum Girls – Only in Dreams

Rating: ★★★★☆

Last year, Dum Dum Girls released I Will Be, an album filled with noise pop riffs and all the girl power you could possibly pack into a single album. This album launched these girls into the fame of the indie-sphere, forever allowing them to be of buzz worthy status. On this sophomore album, they look to branch off a little from their power pop to a more dimensional sound, as to show their diversity.

With so many of the members of this band in various other acts, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that their sound has matured in nature since their last release. It seems as if each lady gained some experience from their individual projects that allowed their collective dreamy pop to feel tighter knit. The first song is “Always Looking,” which kicks things off on a jamming note from the instant it begins. At two minutes and twenty-one seconds, Dum Dum Girls waste no time ad jump straight into the wailing guitars, the sassy powerful vocals of lead singer Dee-Dee and the luscious waves of sound. Already, it is apparent that the sound quality is already triumphant over previous releases.

Even though not much seems to have changed stylistically for these ladies, there is a definitive confident sound that emanates in these jam. Most of the songs hover around the traditional three-minute mark, save for “Coming Down,” but that is a different beast entirely. At six and a half minutes, this song is a crawling delight that ebbs and flows with the angular guitars and that slow resonating drum beats that juxtapose with the honeyed vocals. For me, it is one of the more intriguing numbers that this band has crafted. It is not as though the youthful spirit has been lost, but instead, it is channeled into emotion rather than just fast drumbeats and surface level lyrics. Don’t get me wrong, you can still find this fast and furious pop on Only in Dreams. The next song, in fact, is the epitome of this classic poppy sound with ample jam for you to shake your hair to.

This album is definitely a step in the best direction for Dum Dum Girls. They have taken what was best from their previous releases, perfected them, and then added new elements to spice up their sound and keep old listeners from getting bored. It’s an entertaining album that plays around with what you would expect from these ladies. Have a listen.

New Music From Dum Dum Girls

I’ll go ahead and be honest with you people, I’ve never been the biggest fan of Dum Dum Girls and have always found their side projects more interesting.  I say this so you can truly believe me when I say that this new slow burning jam “Coming Down” has immediately turned my opinion of the band.  Sure it’s simple, but it’s Mazzy Star style build up has me marking the calendar for the September 27th release of their new album Only in Dreams on Sub Pop Records.  Also of note, the band is stopping into town Friday at Mohawk for a live set that’s sure to sell out.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/10068.mp3]

Download: Dum Dum Girls – Coming Down [MP3]

FT5: Album Closers

0731top5coverIn the current state of the music industry, we’re all overly concerned with singles, rather than the completed album.  But, long ago, people put thought and art into the creation of the ending of an album, the summation of their musical statement.  We all have sat in our rooms, at least I hope, waiting for that last song, that last breath of music, in hopes of the perfect summation to an album.  A brilliant closer almost always warrants a brilliant album, and we’ve compiled a list of our favorite album closers that always guarantee we listen to said album all the way through until the needles hits the vinyl and emits that hiss signaling the end of the record.
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