Artist: Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks
Album: Mirror Traffic
Like many, I was originally turned onto Stephen Malkmus through his original band, Pavement. I feel, for the most part, Malkmus has had success in carving his own path away from his old band and the goofiness and love for wordplay abundant in Pavement’s albums is certainly present on his newest album, Mirror Traffic, which feels like an entirely staged exercise. The entire album unfortunatley feels too thought-out and forced. It’s possible that this wouldn’t be such a negative if it weren’t following his fantastic 2008 album, Real Emotional Trash. Where that album featured long, playful, jam-like songs, Mirror Traffic feels hollow and constrained. It is perhaps cliched to use the phrase “phoned in,” but it fits the bill in this case. None of the songs stand out; in fact, they feel like pieces of left-over ideas. That’s not to say that tracks such as “No One Is (As I Are Be)” and “Gorgeous Georgie” aren’t good. They are, and they should be heard. There is just something lazy about them, and the album as a whole.
It should be noted that this album was produced by Beck. It’s difficult to tell simply by listening to the overall production, but anyone familiar with his more recent work will find parallelles in the writing and composition. That’s neither good nor bad, but it does give some insight into the direction that Malkmus wanted to take things. Mirror Traffic isn’t a bad way to kill fifty minutes, but you could certainly find more interesting things to listen to with little effort.