Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks - Mirror Traffic
Release Date: August 23, 2011
Record Label: Matador
Like many great songwriters before him, Stephen Malkmus can't stand still. As he did with his previous band, Pavement, each of Malkmus's solo records have been an entire universe in themselves. And while Malkmus continues to pave new territory (pun intended) it's almost impossible to mistake a Malkmus record for anyone else. Ok, lets face it, the man is as close to a musical genius as we have working today. So, is it any wonder that his latest record Mirror Traffic is as enjoyable as they come?
While bands were drawing obfuscated literary illusions and begging you to delve deeper into lyrical meaning, Malkmus became the master of the flip witticism. With the deft linguistic dexterity of an observational comic he employed puns, excessively literal readings, and a cynical cultural reading to mock himself and everything he was doing including the act of making music. Pavement's anthology Quarantine the Past takes its title from such a verbal joust - "You're the kind of girl I like / because you're empty / and I'm empty / and you can never quarantine the past."
Though Malkmus's lyrical hocus-pocus has been the target of his critical laudations, his past albums like 2008's riff-laden Real Emotional Trash emerged as testaments to his musical accumen. Mirror Traffic doesn't rely on jamster solos, but a cunning mix of musical styles from the laid-back nostalgia of "No One Is (As I Are Be)" to the gentle groove of "Brain Gallop" and the spacey tidbit "Jumblegloss." Malkmus's songs have always seemed to belong to their own universe. But, on Mirror Traffic influences start to pop through and like Malkmus's lyrics, they're as eclectic as they come. Songs seem to turn and move on their own time. Like Malkmus's career, it's never the same river, nor the same song twice.
But, if there is one thing that seems to draw this album together it's the confessional aspect. Of course even Malkmus's most confessional sounding songs like "Major Leagues" or "Zurich is Stained" have always been a jumble images intermixed with moments of disarming honesty. What makes this album feel the most personal of Malkmus's catalog is the gentle reigned-in quality of the songs. Malkmus feels almost ready to lay everything clear to us, even if he does it in obscure, difficult ways, it makes it all the more enjoyable to listen to.