10 Best Ariel Pink Songs
No matter what you think of his music — really, it’s not everyone’s cup of PCP tea — Ariel Pink deserves credit for being an observant listener. What else could explain the precision of his uncannily awkward, badly-tracked-Betamax vibes? His is the sound of a hyperactive mind — one clogged with garbage media, overheard basic-cable jingles and half-remembered earworms. He’s one part sonic Bhangi, rooting through pop music’s refuse, and one part junkyard artiste, repurposing sounds from the Island of Misfit Records. Pink has been at it since the late ’90s, composing and recording at a prolific pace, and that’s led to a vast and intimidating catalog to sift through. If you’re new to his seedy, sarcastic, acerbic, tongue-in-cheek world, here’s a helpful primer: a list of the 10 Best Ariel Pink Songs.
Consider the opening line an official artist’s statement: “Will I write a song you love today? / O-o-oh, there’s no way to tell, and who cares? Well I don’t / Thank the lord my standards for success are so low.” The song ends with Pink shrugging it off: “It may not be much, but let’s see you try.” At first blush, it’s just a catchy, jangly track. Then you drive yourself crazy trying to remember another good song written about the songwriting process.
‘Evolution’s a Lie’
Next on our list of the 10 Best Ariel Pink songs is this cosmic, kraut-beat raver, which clocks in at 180 beats per minute. For four minutes. That’s 720 quarter notes of echo-drenched, feedback-wrecked mania. It’s also a stout shot of zero-G paranoia with a religious satire chaser. Bonus: Pink’s no stranger to thrusting out a groove, but this song, played at the right time at the right party, will kill a dance floor. Gloat away, bedroom DJs.
‘Symphony of the Nymph’
Is this a shout-out to his dad? To ‘Love Me Do?’ To ‘Apache?’ And are those squeaky bed frames? Yeah, all of the above. This is the most audacious, ADD track in Pink’s entire oeuvre. His ‘Symphony’ is completely unable to sit still. (Side note: I watched ‘Amadeus’ the other night and couldn’t shake the feeling that the horny, hyperactive creator of “Leck mich im Arsch” would be making something along these lines if only he had a Tascam four-track and a bag of ditch weed.)
Recorded in 1998 or 1999, this isn’t as ambitious as the other great songs, so it tends to get overlooked. But in less than three minutes, Pink proves he can whip up a simple, straight-ahead ditty that’s just as catchy as his later, oilier tracks. All mush-mouth and half-spoken, it sounds like the greatest Fall song that Mark E. Smith never got around to recording, which is the highest praise one can possibly give a song.
‘Are You Going to Look After My Boys?’
It’s Nyan Cat. It’s ‘The Song That Never Ends.’ It’s FRED. It’s Mario Paint. And it’s the most annoying song Ariel Pink has ever released. Also, it’s probably the most replayable.
If ‘Evolution’s a Lie’ is his shot at space-rock, ‘The Bottom’ — our next entry on the 10 Best Ariel Pink Songs list — is his journey to the center of the Earth. Layering a cracked fuzz bass line under tinny ‘Castlevania’ keys, Pink creates something too raw and vulnerable to be dismissed as purely hokey. It might be Pink’s most human song, but as always, you have to wonder if he’s just taking the piss and laughing at you. A signature track, either way.
With what sounds like a junkyard phaser pedal, a couple of jingle sticks and a throaty croon, Pink twists late-night AM psychedelia into Northern Soul, creating a beautiful, cavernous ode to an AWOL weekend fling. This track — off his best album, ‘House Arrest’ — was the first hint of the sprawling, faded arrangements that were to come. Exciting stuff.
‘For Kate I Wait’
As the story goes, Pink was “discovered” after sending a CD-R of ‘The Doldrums’ to Animal Collective. After ignoring it for weeks, the band popped it in their van’s stereo and couldn’t stop listening to it. This track may have been the one that caught their attention. As for the inspiration behind the song, if the billowing synths don’t tip you off, check the video: Yep, it’s an ode to art-rocker Kate Bush.
‘Round and Round’
The United Music Internet Tastemaker Congress got it right in 2010. The highlight of Pink’s breakthrough album, ‘Before Today,’ features one of the greatest choruses ever to be played ad nauseam on college radio. OK, maybe not ad nauseam. The chorus still sounds incredible, and we’ve yet to tire of it. Somewhere, the Purple One is grousing he didn’t get to those harmonies first. Certified classic. Plus, just look at the art for the 7″ single.
‘Every Night I Die at Miyagi’s’
Ten years after its release, no Ariel Pink song can compare with the original, the tune that caught the attention of just about everyone who got in on the ground floor. Is it a ‘Nugget?’ A pebble, maybe. Either way, this track drinks deep from the ’60s garage-psych stream. Pink picks up on the era’s flirtation with bossa nova, and his hiccuped vocals — backed by a Nilsson-y choir of Pinks — make for one of the sweetest tracks he’s recorded. Hence its placement atop our 10 Best Ariel Pink Songs list.