Real Emotional Trash
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks
Malkmus, the former Pavement frontman, pulls a late-career psych-out with this album full of jamming and songs topping five — and in one case 10 — minutes. Unfortuntely, many of the longer tracks (“Dragonfly Pie,” “Hopscotch Willy,” “Elmo Delmo”) suffer not only from godawful names but from their mostly uninteresting, often unvarying, instrumental breaks.
There are brief moments of kick-ass riffage, and the 10-minute title track is schizophrenic enough to keep your attention. Best though are the shorter, more focused songs. The excellent “Cold Son” would’ve been a highlight on Slanted and Enchanted, and the almost too-brief “Gardenia” tweaks the standard Malkmus formula with some sunny ’60s backing vocals.
Some Starting, Some Stopping
(Polyvinyl Record Co.)
This sophomore album from Champaign, Illinois’ Headlights is what we in the music biz call a “Summer’s Eve” album. It’s pleasant enough, but everything has that not-so-fresh feeling. Vocalists Erin Fein and Tristain Wraight blend smoothly, and the instrumentation is practically flawless. Listeners with a decent indie-rock knowledge, though, will be constantly troubled by the unmistakable similarities to other, more popular bands. Everybody steals, of course, but many of the songs here are so derivative of a limited range of indie pop-rock acts (Arcade Fire, Stars, Death Cab for Cutie) that they border on hipster karaoke.
It’s been nearly 15 damn years since “Cannonball” came close to topping the charts and six years since the just-okay follow-up Title TK, so whatever remains of the Breeders’ ridiculously patient fan base deserves a masterpiece. We’ll have to settle for good enough. Opener “Overglazed” makes some shiny atmospherics from a few chords and an echo effect, while highlight “We’re Gonna Rise” and the catchy “Bang On” are so New Wave-tastic you keep expecting a guest vocal from Fred Schneider. The muddy midsection takes a few listens to appreciate, though, and the album’s final three songs just flat-out suck.