Surely even normal kids growing up in Hollywood must, at times, feel like they're missing out on something–transplant the most mundane memories from your youth to a town 20 car minutes south of those famous cinema hills, with all their fun and iconography, and imagine the envy and frustration that'd rot at your gut whenever you had to spend the night at home alone babysitting. Ariel Pink, aka Ariel Marcus Rosenberg, grew up in Pico-Robertson, a town of aforementioned ilk, and his first memories of pop music came from the radio he'd hear every day driving to Beverley Hills High School. Without wanting to play dumb Freud, it's rewarding to view Pink's arrival at this point in his recording career through the filter of his Hollywood childhood, and all the associations with Alicia Silverstone's emerald green eyes the phrase conjures up.
Before Today is supposed to be Ariel Pink's breakthrough album. Primarily that's because it was made in a real studio, paid for by a real label with real money–'til now, all of his music has emerged from his bedroom, where'd he kneel to record albums like The Doldrums and House Arrest, much of the time playing 'the drums' with his mouth. These albums sounded like retreat into an own world–they were covered in a thick film of lo-fi noise hum and melodies were evasive, often flitting and strafing through that fuzz as if an infant was mad with control of a car's AM radio dial. Fortunately, they were also insanely good records–the extent of Pink's pop nous has been clear for a while now, and much of Before Today does sound like an unleashing of that, particularly lead single Round and Round with its 10cc-recalling synths and bassline stolen from Sade's Hang On To Your Love. The album's highpoint arrives in its first bridge, as Ariel 'answers the phone' amid guitar waft that sounds like billowing net curtains on a hot summer's day.
Other highlights arrive in the 70s Bowie funk snark of opener Hot Body Rub, Bright Lit Blue Skies' quietly euphoric pop radio charge, L'estat's synth whirl and Reminiscences' pleasant, aquatic drift. In fact, every track on this superb album is a winner–and, draped in the quiet glamour, fun and stateliness of bygone radio pop-rock, evidence that Ariel has emerged from his bedroom to exact his revenge on Hollywood's Hills. --Kev Kharas
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