Sights & Sounds: Indie With a Kick

By Mike Evans

Indie with a kick
STEPHEN MALKMUS AND THE JICKS — Mirror Traffic
THE GOOD: Indie rock legend Stephen Malkmus gives us his fifth post-Pavement effort.
THE BAD: No complaints, but no great progressions either. Traffic is Malkmus being Malkmus. If you embraced his past, you’ll find much to devour here.
THE NITTY GRITTY: We’re now at the point where the man’s solo work (with or without backing band the Jicks) is equal to the amount of work with Pavement (five albums each). Each legacy also lasted about a decade (although the guy isn’t retiring anytime soon). So it seems only natural that Traffic is the man’s most Pavement-like record since his first solo outing.
Produced by Beck, it’s a ragged collection of songs both loud and jagged (“Tune Grief”) and soft and sneaky (“No One Is As I Are Be”). It’s also a return to a simpler past, feeling especially fresh coming off the heels of the progressive leaning Real Emotional Trash (2008). You can tell this one was recorded quickly; the band eager to plug in and churn out tracks.
BUY IT?: Sure. Whether you’re a newbie or a devotee, Traffic is a solid representation of the man’s subtle brilliance.

TOM VEK — Leisure Seizure
THE GOOD: It took six years, but British singer/songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist Tom Vek finally gives us his sophomore effort.
THE BAD: Was Leisure Seizure worth more than a half-decade wait? Maybe, but the album is nothing spectacular. Good? Yep.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Vek loves playing around in the studio; his mixing and production techniques as important as the songs themselves. It’s “behind the board” that Vek really shines; his melodies and lyrics average at best. But the man knows how to wrap those rudimentary parts up in solid rhythms, quirky keyboard flourishes and funky arrangements. The guy also knows how to utilize his limited vocal range. There’s a bit of punk lurking in these songs, but for the most part this is just good old fashioned rhythmic alt-pop.
Better bits include tightly woven catchy concoctions like “Seizemic” and “Someone Loves You,” songs where the beats, basslines and loops rip the spotlight away from all that hovers above. Yes, Vek slips up a few times and loses his inspiration now and again. But overall, the disc clicks as a cohesive unit.
BUY IT?: Sure. Leisure Seizure shows us a good time.

THE RAPTURE — In the Grace of Your Love
THE GOOD: NYC dance/punk outfit the Rapture survives and returns with their best yet.
THE BAD: The guys are definitely maturing. That may be tough for some to swallow, but so be it. Grace is all the better for this progression.
THE NITTY GRITTY: After dealing with his mother’s suicide, exiting and then rejoining the band, frontman Luke Jenner brings a slight sense of peace to the proceedings. Nothing here touches the noise level of 2003’s “House of Jealous Lovers,” but the band can still get their heavy groove on.
Produced by Phillipe Zdar (Phoenix, Cassius), the record is more focused than past efforts; the songs well-defined. Better bits include the tear-stained yet rock solid “Miss You,” UK throwback “Roller Coaster” and funk-infused lead single “How Deep Is Your Love.” “Come Back To Me” rides a seamless beat and bouncy sampled accordion while “Children” blasts us with some infectious melancholy.
There aren’t too many misfires this time out. And after much internal and external strife, Jenner and his crew seem to be in a better place these days. You leave this album feeling good.
BUY IT?: Oh yeah.

NEW RELEASES — CD
KATE BUSH— 50 Words for Snow
COMMON — The Dream, The Believer
DAUGHTRY — Break the Spell
RIHANNA — Talk That Talk

NEW RELEASES — DVD
CONAN THE BARBARIAN (remake)
SPY KIDS: ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD
with Jessica Alba and Jeremy Piven
SUPER 8 with Kyle Chandler and Elle Fanning

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