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ALBUM REVIEW: Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks

Pavement frontman lets it all hang out on 5th solo album

  • Stephen Malkmus
  • Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
  • Stephen Malkmus
  • Stephen Malkmus
  • Stephen Malkmus
  • Stephen Malkmus
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Mirror Traffic, the latest album from Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks, has been ready to go for quite some time, but due to Malkmus’ time consuming 2010 reunion tour with his previous band, Pavement, the album had to be shelved until it was ready to be marketed to the awaiting public: summer 2011. Noticeably absent from Malkmus’ backing band (The Jicks) this time around is drummer Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney fame. During The Jicks downtime as a result of Pavement’s reunion, Weiss and former Sleater-Kinney guitarist Carrie Brownstein and Helium front woman Mary Timony formed the indie rock super group Wild Flag, and will soon be releasing their self-titled debut album on MERGE Records, September 13. Weiss’ has been replaced by drummer Jake Morris, a friend from fellow Portland, Oregon band, The Joggers.

Produced by longtime friend and “ally” Beck Hansen, Mirror Traffic has an extremely subdued vibe throughout the album coupled with the right amount of distortion and electric guitar. Recorded over the course of four days at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles, Malkmus and co. added to the studio’s long list of celebrity clientele alongside such artists as Sheryl Crow and Yellowcard. With Beck at the helm and The Jicks playing with in-the-pocket precision, Malkmus was able to focus on crafting shorter songs with deeper melodies and avoided the all-too-familiar psychedelic undertones one would imagine coming from a Beck/Malkmus collaboration. Now a father of two young daughters, Malkmus definitely lets the dad rock hang out aqll over the album with his always puzzling-yet-on-point word play on songs like, “Senator” where Malkmus croons, “I know what the Senator wants/ What the Senator wants is a blowjob.”

With titles like, “Forever 28” and “Stick Figures In Love” it’s clear that success and fatherhood have left Malkmus with plenty of room to keep his career as a solo artist loftier than his heyday with his previous band. His recent reunion tour with Pavement should help bolster sales of Mirror Traffic as they performed at just about every major festival in America and Europe, introducing his music and jumbled wordplay to a whole new era of the music-buying populace. Just recently Malkmus relocated his young family from Portland, Oregon to Berlin, Germany where they will live for the next year. In the meantime, Malkmus and The Jicks have plotted out a brief North American tour kicking off in Detroit, Michigan on September 20, and wrapping up a month later on October 20, at The Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach, California. Afterwards the band will head to Europe where they’ll tour for most of November before calling settling in to enjoy the holidays with their respective family and friends.

Fans that are unable to get tickets or don’t live in one of the cities on the tour schedule have one chance to catch Malkmus and The Jicks on a national scale when they perform on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon Tuesday, August 30.

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  • Rating: 4 of 5