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Stephen Malkmus, Beirut 

Reviews: Mirror Traffic, Rip Tide

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Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, Mirror Traffic

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You can count me among the Pavement fanatics who had a hard time getting into Stephen Malkmus’ past couple of albums made with his band the Jicks. I’ll never begrudge a man’s right to jam out for long stretches on his guitar, but I’ve always been more of a fan of Malkmus’ highly entertaining wordplay and sticky hooks than his guitar godliness. On Mirror Traffic, Malkmus’ fifth album since Pavement’s demise, he seems to find a happy medium; it’s definitely the most Pavement-y sounding disc he’s made in years. Maybe that’s due to the global reunion tour he did with his old band before recording it. Or maybe it’s the influence of Beck, the first outside producer Malkmus has worked with since going solo. Whatever the case, the 15 songs on Mirror Traffic are a nice encapsulation of all the things fans love about Malkmus. There’s the loose (some would say sloppy) vibe of “Stick Figures in Love.” There’s the raucous, somewhat joke-y political rant of “Senator” (“I know what the senator wants, what the senator wants is a blow job”). The wordy “Asking Price” could be straight off of Pavement’s Wowee Zowee. It’s solid stuff, beginning to end. Now if we could just get one of those tour dates with Ty Segall. (Dan Nailen)

Beirut, The Rip Tide
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Beirut has always been gifted with the ability to seamlessly infuse influences from world travels into their indie-folk sound without sacrificing accessibility. That mold seems to have been kept intact with the band’s latest album, The Rip Tide. Main songwriter Zach Condon hasn’t lost his affinity for baroque instrumentation or his talent for tastefully orchestrating strings, flute, tubas, etc. to complement his clear baritone and some of the more recognizable elements of the trio. What’s changed on Beirut’s third full-length effort is that the sound and composition are more refined and mature, without sounding contrived. In an interview with The New York Times, Condon described his renewed approach: “For years, I was picking up new instruments once a month, and for this, I was trying to focus a little more, stick with piano, ukulele and trumpet.” Exemplifying this tempered restrain is the title track, “The Rip Tide.” A piano chord progression ushers in expansive strings and horns, and when all the elements of the song are in place, like a pulsing tide, the different aspects recede and advance in harmony. Another highlight of the album comes with the first track, “A Candle’s Fire.” Condon’s vocals powerfully lead the elements of gentle ukulele and expressive drumming into the song’s many changes. Meanwhile, tracks like the energetic “Santa Fe” stand as testament that the album is a great pick for a summer playlist. (Jordan Wallis)

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