On paper, it might not seem like Ariel Pink has achieved anything drastic or revelatory with his lo-fi take on pop music. He’s certainly not the first songwriter to record smeared demo tapes on cheap equipment, or to reinvent AM-radio sounds from the ‘70s and ‘80s for the new millennium, or to tackle sexuality and gender fluidity with a theatrical flair. But it’s the way Pink combines these impulses—infusing his melodies with a terrifying, intensely antisocial sense of longing, and imbuing his ironic sense of humor with legitimate emotional release—that makes his music so insular and universal all at once. The man also has an innate ability for crafting snappy, gratifying songs that worm their way into your head, taking a little bit from every era in musical history while remaining unequivocally on his own trip.
Whether he’s updating the vulgar antics of Frank Zappa and Ween for the 21st century, reinterpreting yacht-rock staples like Hall & Oates and Michael McDonald as gothy lords of the underworld, or evoking a Rocky Horror-like delight in sexual freedom and deviance, Ariel Pink is a truly unique voice in pop music, an experimental wizard as avant-garde as he is accessible. Hit play on our mix above to hear just what makes him tick.