Track of the week

Hunned Bandz

Tanukichan

Matador / 2018
7.2

Sparkle Hard


Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks

By: Nic Stewart

Malkmus has remained busy after all these years following the fallout of his former band Pavement. Whether you’re aware of this or not, is not important. That’s the point. While having spearheaded underground Indie Rock in the 90s, Malkmus has resided in the undercurrents of mainstream music all this time. That’s not to say he hasn’t had huge success. Matador Records, one of the most popular labels in indie Rock culture, has been with Malkmus from the beginning. From the first Pavement record (Slanted and Enchanted) to 2018s Sparkle Hard. On average Malkmus has delivered an album almost every three years, give or take.

What we all love about Malkmus is his ability to strike a nerve of nostalgia. The talent of taking you back to a time in your life you almost forgot was there. Malkmus has always been an elegant songwriter and his lyrics are the heart of his music. On the catchy single, Shiggy, it’s easy to interpret that Malkmus is content with where he is, where he’s from, and where he’s going. “Whenever, forever.” This song has a more brooding air to it but there is a certain amount of power in the words and the lick near the end. It would be fair to say, Malkmus and his Jicks have diverted a little here but haven’t skipped a beat. The other single Middle America, takes us back to a foundational sound. A feel good song at the end of the day. Malkmus encourages you to do what you got to do to get through life while also appreciating yourself. In the fifth verse, “kiss yourself metaphorically and open the door and piss if you need to.” This isn’t just random banter even if it’s a reference to taking a leak. Malkmus, as playful as he sometimes can be, is very serious at the end of the day.

While there seems to be no real theme to this album, there are eleven heart-felt tracks with witty lyricism and expansive instrumentation. Multiple styles and sounds have been toyed with here and that’s good. Learn something about this band, they are capable of a great deal. Especially with their effective leader at the helm. On the nearly 7 minute track Kite we get a melodious acoustic guitar with soft vocals from Malkmus at the beginning. Roughly one minute into the song it shifts to what almost sounds like a scene transition psych trip from That 70s Show. This evolves into a bouncy groove that carries itself to a sweet solo. With all the unique transitions this track adds up to be the most formidable on the album. On the track “Refute” we get a taste of Americana with a little steel guitar, violin, and a guest appearance from none other than Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon. Other than the backing vocals on Future Suite this is the only time we hear from anyone else on the album and the addition of her unmistakable voice is a pleasant surprise.

That’s even the best way to describe this album, a pleasant surprise. Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks have delivered another album that rank with the best of them. Give him a little bit of time and I’m sure we’ll see more material down the road. Who’s to say when this creative gold mine will be fully excavated? “Sparkle Hard” is the 7th studio album by Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks. You can catch them on their North American Tour this summer.

Sparkle Hard


Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks

By: Nic Stewart

Matador / 2018
7.2

Malkmus has remained busy after all these years following the fallout of his former band Pavement. Whether you’re aware of this or not, is not important. That’s the point. While having spearheaded underground Indie Rock in the 90s, Malkmus has resided in the undercurrents of mainstream music all this time. That’s not to say he hasn’t had huge success. Matador Records, one of the most popular labels in indie Rock culture, has been with Malkmus from the beginning. From the first Pavement record (Slanted and Enchanted) to 2018s Sparkle Hard. On average Malkmus has delivered an album almost every three years, give or take.

What we all love about Malkmus is his ability to strike a nerve of nostalgia. The talent of taking you back to a time in your life you almost forgot was there. Malkmus has always been an elegant songwriter and his lyrics are the heart of his music. On the catchy single, Shiggy, it’s easy to interpret that Malkmus is content with where he is, where he’s from, and where he’s going. “Whenever, forever.” This song has a more brooding air to it but there is a certain amount of power in the words and the lick near the end. It would be fair to say, Malkmus and his Jicks have diverted a little here but haven’t skipped a beat. The other single Middle America, takes us back to a foundational sound. A feel good song at the end of the day. Malkmus encourages you to do what you got to do to get through life while also appreciating yourself. In the fifth verse, “kiss yourself metaphorically and open the door and piss if you need to.” This isn’t just random banter even if it’s a reference to taking a leak. Malkmus, as playful as he sometimes can be, is very serious at the end of the day.

While there seems to be no real theme to this album, there are eleven heart-felt tracks with witty lyricism and expansive instrumentation. Multiple styles and sounds have been toyed with here and that’s good. Learn something about this band, they are capable of a great deal. Especially with their effective leader at the helm. On the nearly 7 minute track Kite we get a melodious acoustic guitar with soft vocals from Malkmus at the beginning. Roughly one minute into the song it shifts to what almost sounds like a scene transition psych trip from That 70s Show. This evolves into a bouncy groove that carries itself to a sweet solo. With all the unique transitions this track adds up to be the most formidable on the album. On the track “Refute” we get a taste of Americana with a little steel guitar, violin, and a guest appearance from none other than Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon. Other than the backing vocals on Future Suite this is the only time we hear from anyone else on the album and the addition of her unmistakable voice is a pleasant surprise.

That’s even the best way to describe this album, a pleasant surprise. Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks have delivered another album that rank with the best of them. Give him a little bit of time and I’m sure we’ll see more material down the road. Who’s to say when this creative gold mine will be fully excavated? “Sparkle Hard” is the 7th studio album by Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks. You can catch them on their North American Tour this summer.