Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - Sparkle Hard
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks
Stephen Malkmus may not be a name you are used to hearing, but seven albums on He has made a name for himself on the singer songwriter scene. This new album Sparkle Hard doesn't have him blazing new territory sonically, just refining it to an absolute razors edge. This album all at once is easy breezy like the sialing album cover suggests, but then also avante garde and artistic. There are songs like "Solid Silk" which sound like nice 70s inspired pop tracks, but then something happens, a beat is missed, a pause goes on a bit longer than expected and suddenly the song becomes something really exciting. The song writing here is also wonderful and weird. When someone who clearly knows more about music than you (and they are sure to let you know it) a band that often comes up is Pavement, Malkmus' former band. While Pavement is almost exclusively linked with a 90s sound this record is such a throwback to what makes a classic pop song. The guitars are a little dirtier and the experience much more loose but you can feel how much drum tight pop has influenced this record. The lyrics however are almost exclusively about the present moment. On "Bike Lane" He sings the praises of sharing the road with cyclists. Facebook and the #metoo movement make appearances on this record, but they are wrapped up in such lovely packages that you barely notice him getting political.
"Rattler" signals a bit of a return to the more Pavement like style. The guitars get a little more muddy and the lyrics more frantic. "Shiggy" follows suit, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, it just sort of throws the album into this entirely different space. "Kite" harness some Tame Impala vibes diving into a more psychedelic space and allowing the song to morph and change. The rest of the record keeps things pretty tight so this departure feels like a well warranted release. The album closes on a bit of a stomping major release of sound that doesn't quite square with the rest of the record. Sparkle Hard does so well to harness a rock energy put shove it through a pop filter and everything comes out the other side beautiful and fun. The music is often serious, but it doesn't take itself seriously allowing you to buy in rather than keep the album at a distance as you try and size it up. This is an indie record that arrives in a time wheere being indie isn't all that cool. Sparkle Hard however pushes through that and gives you hope that maybe there is a space for Indie music in 2018.
7.8 out of 10