ARIEL PINK's Haunted Graffiti "round and round" pitchfork song of the year (produced by Sunny Levine)
Thinking about “Round and Round” in this slot, I can’t help but compare it to the song we had here last year, Animal Collective’s “My Girls”. The connection between them starts with the fact that Ariel Pink first came to public consciousness with the releases of The Doldrums on A.C.’s Paw Tracks label in 2004. Musically, that’s also pretty much where the connection ends, despite the two artists sometimes sharing the “hazy, half-remembered yada yada” that became an indie cliché over the past two years. But I keep thinking of “My Girls” when listening to “Round and Round” because the musical differences couldn’t be starker. Panda Bear wrote a simple verse and chorus and alternated between the two with a rhythm that felt right, jumping back and forth until it seemed time to stop and then the song faded out. “My Girls” was naïve and straightforward and full of heart and people played it at weddings with a straight face and that didn’t even seem that weird.
"Round and Round", on the other hand, has an intro, a variation, a funny little break with a sound effect, a section that pauses just before the big refrain, and then that huge chorus, where every musical element (and every listener) is embraced by the song’s skinny arms. In addition to all those pieces, it’s also got requisite "vibe" and atmosphere. Where "My Girls" felt sincere, "Round and Round" is knowing and self-conscious, commenting on itself as a song as it unfolds. That bass/vibes line goes round and round, there are lyrics about air guitar and a frontman, and Ariel Pink whispers "breakdown" during a breakdown. This is music that gets over on its astonishing level of craftsmanship, which is something no casual Ariel Pink fan accustomed to his blown-out home recorded lo-fi output over the last decade would have expected from him in a million years. In 2010, Ariel Pink was the strange kid who fucked around all semester and developed a reputation as a hopeless loser who then proceeded to blow everyone’s minds at the talent show. And in the end, "Round and Round" succeeds brilliantly for the same reason great Burt Bacharach songs work— because every chord change and turnaround and melodic leap is in exactly the right place. "We’ll dazzle them all," goes one line, and it’s no idle boast; another goes, "Write the songs that say, ‘I like that!’." Done and done. —Mark Richardson