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Stephen Malkmus – Traditional Techniques

March 15, 2020

I am a bigger fan of Stephen Malkmus’ solo work than his work in Pavement. This latest solo effort is top-notch. Per the LP sticker:

…Malkmus shines a light on his guitar playing with a set of folky jams.

All Malkmus albums shine a light on his guitar playing, but I get what they are saying. With these sparse semi-acoustic arrangements Malkmus’ guitar really pops.

I am burying the lead: This album is as good as anything Malkmus has done over his career. It is a new mellow. It is a new sound – Malkmus as folky. Don’t be deceived by how laid back this is, it is raging. The arrangements are deep and psychedelic, Malkmus spices the arrangements with world music. There are some stinging guitar solos, the lyrics are wild-ass. I have no idea what the words are about, but they sure are interesting. He is super mellow in his vocal delivery, but there is so much going on. There is more nuance to his vocals then I have heard before.

The Pitchfork reviewer (Evan Rytlewski) gets it right:

The most surprising thing about the album isn’t how far Malkmus has strayed from his comfort zone. It’s how at home he sounds there.

Per Malkmus’ label (Matador):

Traditional Techniques is new phase folk music for new phase folks, with Malkmus as attuned as ever to the rhythms of the ever-evolving lingual slipstream. Instead of roses, briars, and long black veils, prepare for owns, cracked emojis, and shadowbans. Centered around the songwriter’s 12-string acoustic guitar, and informed by a half-century of folk-rock reference points, Traditional Techniques is the product of Malkmus and engineer / arranger Chris Funk (The Decemberists). Playing guitar is friend-to-all-heads Matt Sweeney (Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Chavez, too many others to count), who’d previously crossed paths with Malkmus on the opposite end of the longhairs’ map of the world, most lately gnarling out together back east in the jam conglomerate Endless Boogie.

This album sounds like Lou Reed made a Father John Misty album. This LP hits me in a sweet spot, this may end up being my favorite Malkmus album.

From → Music Reviews

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