At the time, Ariel Pink‘s 2010 album Before Today felt either like a capstone to his previous career or the start of a second one. Suddenly, he was no longer satirizing sunny and sweet California pop but creating it outright, swapping out the humidity and noise of his early recordings for sharp and considered soft rock arrangements played by a bona fide band. Lo-fi bedroom pop world-builders had been getting high off Pink’s fumes for years–sometimes attracting much bigger audiences than his own–but after Before Today the crowds, and the critics, started showing up. Rather than rest on his laurels or hop on the train to stardom, the songwriting and production auteur sabotaged his own goodwill with a series of PR blunders that almost look intentional in retrospect. The lowered expectations freed him up to do what he seems to love best: making really weird shit, which he did with aplomb on 2012’s Mature Themes and 2014’s pom pom, Before Today’s two followups.
“Another Weekend,” released as a one-off this morning, is the first solo material we’ve heard from Pink since pom pom. (Myths 002, a collaborative EP with Natalie Mering of Weyes Blood, came out earlier this year.) It opens with languid acoustic guitar strumming and cascading backing vocals that could signal a return to his slicker sound. “Another weekend out of my life is gonna get me into trouble” Pink sings, sounding like the consummate louche L.A. bachelor.
And then, naturally, things start to fall apart. Pink abruptly takes up an off-kilter waltzlike pattern that sounds like a different song entirely, recalling the psychedelic rhythmic downshift that the Beatles used to enter the final chorus of “Magical Mystery Tour.” Just as you’re getting used to this dreamy new groove, in comes a whimsical instrumental break that could belong to yet a third composition, maybe the father-daughter dance at an Oompa Loompa wedding. At this point, we’re only a minute into the song.
So no, you probably won’t be hearing Ariel Pink playing in the background at your local Urban Outfitters again any time soon. Pink still has great pop instincts; he’s just determined to twist and undermine them at every possible moment. Each of the three sections of “Another Weekend,” especially its breezy verse, could be fleshed out into a strong entity of its own, and it’s tempting to wonder how they’d sound had Pink chosen to follow a straighter songwriting path. But if he did just what his fans wanted, he wouldn’t be Ariel Pink. And if you’re still willing to take the ride with him, he still has some strange and beautiful scenery to show you along the way.