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CD review: Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks’ ‘Mirror Traffic’

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Annie Zaleski

The Details

Stephen Malkmus & The Jinks
Mirror Traffic
four stars

Judging by the excellent Mirror Traffic, both the Pavement reunion and the production skills of Beck Hansen have invigorated Stephen Malkmus. His post-Pavement band’s fifth album dispenses with the meandering arrangements of 2008’s Real Emotional Trash, instead focusing on bite-sized distillations of genres Malkmus has always favored: frazzled country (the pedal-steel-burnished “Long Hard Book”), garage-fuzz (“Tune Grief”), campfire indie-pop (“Tigers”), classic-rock jamming (“Brain Gallop”), askew R.E.M. jangle (“Stick Figures In Love”) and distorted speed-strumming (“Spazz”). In Beck’s capable hands, these stylistic turns never sound jarring, while Malkmus does his part by tailoring his nonchalant delivery to each song. (The best example is “Senator,” where Malkmus exclaims, “Heavy, heavy, heavy smelter!” with wry theatricality.) Traffic’s attention to detail and emotion-walloped instrumentals—such as the Cure-like “Jumblegloss”—lead to an album that even non-Pavement fans would be hard-pressed to dislike.

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