It was such a relief to learn that Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti had shed Animal Collective's Paw Tracks record label. I abhor Animal Collective, and don't need any more records that sound anything like them. Pink definitely picked up a few of the label's spacey trademarks on past albums. He needed a clean break, a change of direction. But instead of reining him in, current label 4AD has given Pink's wackiness new license in terms of experimental production. He foregoes the predictable lo-fi pop reminiscent of lighter rock from the late '60s found on earlier albums like House Arrest. On Mature Themes he goes down weirder roads and never comes back.
The production is sharper, but the multi-instrumentalist still plays with guitar pedals and synths you don't hear much in rock anymore. There are moments of funk, New Wave and Sega-esque video game music. The title track is chamber pop, where "Live it Up" is a synth anthem right out of the 1980s. That's him singing through the whole album, too, from bass to soprano. Though Pink's ADD-style might bother some, it's that unpredictability that keeps Mature Themes fresh for multiple listens.
Ariel Pink, Purple Pilgrims and Shahs play the Badlander Tue., May 28, at 9 PM. $15/$12 advance at ticketfly.com.