House Arrest - Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti 5 (Paw Tracks 2006 Release)
Start with: “Alisa”
Why it’s worth revisiting: This album is chock-full of characteristic Pink-sims: Eccentrically hooky songs that willfully teeter on the edge of discombobulation, unexpected but effective arrangements, L.A.-flavored lyrics, and playful instrumentation. These ingredients add up to a rewarding listening experience for both initiated Ariel Pink fans and newcomers alike.
Originally released in 2002 along with Lover Boy, we'll look at the House Arrest album on its own, as Pawtracks released it four years later. Liner notes indicate that AP played all instruments on the album with the exception of the drums on "Interesting Results", which were a contribution by coL.
Though "lo-fi" is a term so often associated with Ariel Pink during this era of his work, the importance of this aspect is probably overstated in reviews and conversations about this and other earlier AP albums. As Sound Studies researcher Jonathan Sterne asks when tackling the topic of sound fidelity (both hi and lo), this fidelity (literally, "loyalty) is "fidelity to what?" That is to say, if AP's artistic vision was best realized in a particular location, with particular gear, etc. than these works are loyal to his muse and logistical realities, and therefore - quite literally - hi-fidelity for that time and place. That being said, it is interesting to compare an album like this to 2014's pom pom and note a shift by the latter album to a more traditional pallet, recording-wise.
With songs like "Hardcore Pops are Fun” and "Interesting Results", signature Ariel Pink characteristics like falsetto vocals and unconventional and appealing shifts from key center to center that defy traditional song form. Periodically heavy percussion and bouncing bass lines propel these and other offerings throughout House Arrest. “West Coast Calamities” entices with sophistication, revealed through an unorthodox form, pleasing chord changes, and backing vocal harmonies. “Flying Circles” provides an irresistible intro and diversification of AP's vocal toolbox as he alternates between Prince-like half-sung swagger, spoken sections, and ethereal choruses. The lo-fi palette of dry, muted, thumpy percussion and keyboards again create the tension between simplicity and complexity. “Gettin’ High in the Morning” boasts a thematic fuzz riff that could easily have found a home in Jimmy Page's notebook, while “Helen” has an almost folk-like feel to it. There’s a clever odd-time signature found in this one, despite its poppy nature, and it also takes a turn into murkier territory before returning to its classic pop point of departure.
The track “House Arrest” kicks off with what appears to be a chastising voicemail from Ariel’s father over parking tickets. The song is a delightful mashup, as it traverses instrumental and vocal sections, at times locking into grooves it later relinquishes, all the while punctuated by percussive flourishes. “Alisa” is certainly an example of what some have dubbed hypnogogic pop -- somehow sounding familiar and unique at the same time. “Oceans of Weep” is one of the standout tracks on the album, with its underwater, dreamlike piano, layered vocals, and otherworldly sonic atmosphere. Clocking in at over nine minutes, "Netherlands" is an odyssey delivering unexpected twists and turns with tempo changes, odd time signatures, vocal manipulations, extended instrumental sections, rhythmic ensemble hits throughout, and open-ended atmospheric detours.
And it's these type of shifts -- found throughout the album -- engage the listener in a remarkable way. It’s impossible as a listener to go on auto-pilot and know what’s coming next, or predict the twists and turns that await.
Happy listening, weirdos!