Peter Holslin relaxes to hardcore avant-garde improv jazz.

Ariel Pink’s recent interview with The New Yorker reads like a master’s thesis in the art of trolling. In the span of just over 800 words, he manages to joke about suicide; compare Twitter controversies with the Rwandan genocide; proclaim love for pedophiles and necrophiliacs; diss his (possibly fictitious?) porn star girlfriend by surfing Tinder; describe cigarette smokers as a “persecuted group”; pat himself on the back for being deemed “indie rock’s most hated man right now” by Myspace; and declare, “I’ve been the next big thing for, like, ten years now.” There are plenty of unsympathetic characters in music, but few will ever be so crafty as to use an American journalistic institution for juicy blog bait.

But, wait, what about the actual music? In art, just as in life, Pink has a knack for getting under peoples’ skin. I pride myself on being sensitive to weird sounds, but even I have a hard time making my way through his 2004 album The Doldrums; those queasy vocals and clanging guitars hit my insides like a shot of dishwashing liquid. Still, the songwriting freakazoid has plenty of charming moments, and that’s especially so on “Black Ballerina.” The second single off his forthcoming pom pom double-album (out Nov. 18), it finds him stepping up the sleaze factor by several notches, dispensing with the puppy-love strains of September’s “Put Your Number in My Phone” to tell the story of an old timer taking his pubescent grandson to the “No. 1 strip club in L.A.”

The song is full of delightful details—the squiggling UFO synths in the chorus, the autumn-apple crunch landing on the downbeat, the awkwardly horny tone in the young kid’s voice, the words “juicy belladonna.” Really, though, it’s all about the groove. The machine drums are robotically funky, the ’80s synth-bass tight, compact and irresistibly adenoidal. I can’t forgive Pink for his most obnoxious and sexist tendencies, but I can let out a sigh of resignation and accept him for the brilliant, flawed narcissist he is.

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