Tuesday, January 17, 2012

MIRROR TRAFFIC - Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks (2011)

As with Iceage's New Brigade yesterday, we continue this year with a new progressive approach to album reviews, offering up thoughts and impressions immediately after each of six listens rather than waiting to absorb the album in full.

The Beck-produced Mirror Traffic is ex-Pavement leader Stephen Malkmus's third release with the Jicks, and the group's first since 2008's Real Emotional Trash.

01/17/2012 First Listen Impressions: From the get go, though quick moments of guitar theatrics abound, it's clear the ramshackle Mirror Traffic is going to be a much lighter, breezier, and eclectic affair than Real Emotional Trash's head first dive into heavy, heavy psychedelia...focusing instead on Malkmus's songwriting chops, stylistic range, structural brazenness, and snarky slacker humor.

And for the most part, I'm liking the change.

About a third of the tracks already feel like guaranteed winners, and  though in no way glossy, Beck's super clean production is the epitome of radio friendly, giving the whole album an easy, instant accessibility.  While the overall instrumentation doesn't change much from track to track, the feel and structures of each song varies widely, making for a fairly dynamic first listen.  Not all of the tracks won me over, a couple of the slower tracks didn't click at all the first time through, and the album's overall loose approach leads to some flat moments, but given that the album already appears to boast five or six top flight tracks, I can't imagine giving Mirror Traffic anything lower than a mid-tier Solid Recommend once it's worked through my listening rotation.   

Projected Status after one listen: Solid Recommend.

Cherry Picker's Best Bets after one listen: No One Is (As I Are Be), Senator, Stick Figures In Love, Tune Grief.

Here's the official video for No One Is (As I Are Be), which gives a good sense of the album's loose, agreeable sound.

Component Breakdown after one listen:
1. Tigers - 7 or 8.
2. No One Is (As I Are Be) - 8
3. Senator - 8
4. Brain Gallop - 7 or 8
5. Jumblegloss - ?
6. Asking Price - ?
7. Stick Figures In Love - 8 or 9
8. Spazz - ?
9. Long Hard Book - ?
10. Share The Red - ?
11. Tune Grief - 8 or 9
12. Forever 28 - ?
13. All Over Gently - ?
14. Fall Away - ?
15. Gorgeous George - 7 or 8
Intangibles - Average to High
Spotify / I-Tunes

What are your thoughts on Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks's Mirror Traffic?

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