Album Review

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, ‘Mirror Traffic’

By Franklin Soults
August 23, 2011

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This 45-year-old indie rocker has now cut five albums since Pavement folded in 1999, the same number as that California quintet released in its decade together. Commercially, Malkmus’s former band only made a ripple in the 1990s alternative rock deluge. But critically, Pavement remains as celebrated as any band from that era, its yearning music and offhand attitude tracing the arc of alt-rock’s aspirations and disaffections. Malkmus’s music since then chronicles little more than one man’s robust yet steadfastly personal musical whims. Here, at least, that’s totally fine. “Mirror Traffic’’ offers his most winning balance of adventurousness and accessibility since Pavement’s height. Its 13 songs are unobtrusively deepened and sweetened by producer Beck and driven by the crisp attack of departing drummer Janet Weiss (of Sleater-Kinney fame). They help Malkmus slip smoothly from a French-horn-tinged portrait of a jaded lover (“I heart the part where you play the concerned friend’’) to a joyously sprawling rocker about a depraved “Senator.’’ He doesn’t escape middle-aged insularity; he just makes it fun. (Out today)

ESSENTIAL “Senator’’