Mirror Traffic is the new Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks album. Recorded at Sunset Sound studios LA and at the home of the album’s producer, Beck.
With the question of a Pavement reunion having been firmly and finally answered last year with a yes, Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks return with Mirror Traffic, their most immediate and energised set to date. Recorded in Los Angeles and produced by Beck, Mirror Traffic is an album comprised of fifteen almost-pop songs, and the sound of a band with a spring in their step. “This record,” says Malkmus “is relatively approachable.”
As the first producer to work with Malkmus since Pavement, Beck has drawn out a set of performances that ring with clarity and inventiveness, trading in the Jicks more recent wig-out moments for a sharply defined focus and a more colourful depth of field. With nearly half the tracks clocking in at under three minutes, Mirror Traffic flashes by with a lightness of touch; a decision that band and producer found easy to take: “Beck & I were both burned out on the heavy rocking style” says Malkmus “and playing to the strengths of a melody seemed like a way to go.”
Alongside up-tempo tracks: Senator, the perfectly titled Stick Figures In Love, and Tune Grief, are sunshine-hazy songs: opener Tigers, Long Hard Book, All Over Gently awash with the effortless guitar and vocal licks that are a clear indication that Malkmus and The Jicks are enjoying themselves. On No One (Is As I Are Be) and Fall Away there is a sound, coloured by brass arrangements and softly sung vocal parts, that approaches careworn tenderness. When the guitar lines do let rip and start to fly: Brain Gallop, Share The Red and Forever 28, the riffing is as elegant, poised and classy as riffing gets.
In amongst the usual lyrical flourishes and nonsequitors are some entertainingly direct couplets: “I know what the senator wants / what the senator wants is a blow job” Senator and “No-one is a perfect fit / I don’t believe in that shit,” from the self-explanatory Forever 28.
For someone who has occasionally enjoyed a reputation for throwing ideas into the air and seeing where they land, Mirror Traffic is a confidently direct and purposeful record. Ease into the seat and enjoy the ride.