Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks, ‘Mirror Traffic’
While many ’90s bands have reunited in recent years, it’s important to note that Pavement‘s Stephen Malkmus never truly went away. Easy as it’s been to pine for Pavement, it’s also easy to have forgotten that Malkmus continues to evolve and experiment, toying with synthesizers and electronics and with shape-shifting prog-rock, both solo and with his band The Jicks. So, while Pavement fans may have to wait a little longer (if not forever) for new songs following last year’s reunion, Malkmus‘ latest Jicks record, Mirror Traffic, is among his best post-Pavement offerings to date. It’s certainly the most mature.
That’s a credit to Malkmus and fellow “slacker” iconoclast Beck — who produced the album — because the former’s music is not always an easy listen. While his songs are often impeccably arranged with catchy, sing-song melodies, there’s always been an off-kilter quality to his music, making it feel like it’s about to fall apart. Chord progressions don’t resolve where you want them to, he regularly changes keys mid-stream — often only for a few bars — and there’s enough dissonance and squawks of guitar noise to give the songs a sneering edge.
One of the major overarching themes of Mirror Traffic seems to be a reflexive coming to terms with nostalgia and the boredom of adulthood. But “Forever 28″ also references a crumbling relationship — “I can see the mystery of you and me will never quite add up / No one is your perfect fit, I do not believe in that s—-” — while “All Over Gently” includes the kiss-off line, “Stay if you want, but don’t forget we’re through.”
Mirror Traffic, out Aug. 23, is about as brutally forward and honest as Malkmus has ever sounded, revealing a new side to the enigmatic songwriter. But it’s also an album with plenty of hooks and lyrical surprises.