Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – Mirror Traffic (2011)

Fresh off a Pavement reunion tour, Stephen Malkmus has delivered a Jicks album that manages to feel like a happy middle-ground between the Jicks’ earlier releases and the peak of Pavement’s indie glory.

For anyone acquainted with either of Malkmus’s bands, nothing found on Mirror Traffic will be surprising. It’s indie rock in every possible sense, and checks all the appropriate boxes. Malkmus’ effortlessly cool vocals? Check. Infinitely hummable guitar melodies and hooks? Check. It’s typical Stephen Malkmus in styling, and that is by no means a bad thing.

Some songs will transport the listener straight back to the days of classic Pavement. The days of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain and Wowee Zowee, when Stephen Malkmus and Pavement were forging what is considered some of the greatest indie rock ever recorded. Tracks such as “Senator,” “Tigers,” and “Stick Figures in Love” evoke the earlier band with endlessly listenable hooks and melodies, along with the playful, oft-humorous lyricism and vocal style that Malkmus is known for.

That being said, this is a Jicks album. Although at times it may feel like a Pavement album, at other times it sounds decidedly like a Jicks release. Tracks like “Brain Gallop” and “Share the Red” lack immediacy, eschewing hooks for subdued harmonies and tuneful melodies. Here, Malkmus’s style shifts slightly towards the emotional and serious. This could’ve made for a slightly disjointed, confused listening experience, but that is not the case. Clocking in at 50 minutes over 15 tracks, Mirror Traffic alternates between soft and bouncy, emotional and irreverent, brief and grandiose. Shorter tracks like “Jumblegloss,” and “Spazz” keep things smooth and varied, functioning as interludes between some of the (slightly) longer tracks. It is a very breezy, quick listen, with perfect pacing. It will be over before you know it and you will find yourself wanting to give it another spin.

The Verdict: Whether you are a Jicks fan, a Pavement fan, or simply a fan of the genre, this highly original and fun album is worth your time (and money.) Highly, highly recommended.

Official site: Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks (buy it!)

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