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Nite Jewel - "One Second of Love"
Ariel Pink's Haunter Graffiti - "Mature Themes"
L.A.'s weird pop community continued to thrive in 2012, complicating itself here, cleaning up there. Her BFF Julia Holter made the more accomplished album, but Nite Jewel's Ramona Gonzalez delivered her best moment as well, with this song about the cheap currency of Internet approval. (Clicking a "like" button is a low threshold, indeed.) Tiny lil' godfather of the scene, Ariel Pink, retreated from his smooth AM smash Before Today, to make a more difficult, almost confrontationally annoying record, the occasionally super-juvenile Mature Themes. It used the pop shamelessness of novelty songs or 70s sitcom themes to riff on important subjects like sex addiction and schnitzel. The hodge podge resembled the spotty schizophrenia of his old home-recorded stuff, but it ended up way more frustrating than those records ever were. Why? Because it couldn't help but contain some beautiful work, like "Mature Themes", the Elvis-Costello-on-a-Casio stunner you hear above. When we know he's capable of that, it's impossible to settle for the inside joke.