Initial Reactions (2011): Stephen Malkmus, Girls, Thurston Moore, tUnE-yArDs

Stephen Malkmus – Mirror Traffic – [ind]: Initially, Mirror Traffic sounds like a bunch of slightly off-kilter but mostly generic stabs at classic rock. However, a shift occurs around the album’s middle.  "Asking Price" approaches vintage Pavement, and from then on the album takes a step in the right direction. There are some bright moments here, even a few flashes of Stephen seeming to re-capture his Pavement-era muse ("Fall Away" is a definite winner). Unfortunately, they are merely flashes, none of them reaching the low-key melodic transcendence of "Here" or "In the Mouth a Desert" or any other Malkmus-penned great. Pass. ("Fall Away", "Asking Price", "Spazz")

Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost – [ind]: Shades of canonical classic rock all over the place. I hear "Kodachrome" in "Honey Bunny." "Die" sounds like some proto-metal proggish thing that I can’t quite put my finger on. "Saying I Love You" recalls the Beach Boys. "Vomit" could be an outtake from Dark Side of the Moon. The loveliness abounds, fer sure. It’s all nice, don’t get me wrong, but the thing is, none of it grabs me. In all honesty, why the hype? ("Alex", "Saying I Love You", "Forgiveness")

Thurston Moore – Demolished Thoughts – [++]: It’s an understated effort, built upon haunting and oblique acoustic guitar figures, but Moore gets it right by inviting violinist Samara Lubelski along for the ride. A meditative and poetic record that is frequently gorgeous and inviting, it is perhaps only lacking in gluey themes. Nonetheless, these tunes make for excellent study soundtracks, assisting in the construction of thoughts better perhaps than Moore intended. ("Benediction", "Illumine")

tUnE-yArDs – W H O K I L L – [++]: I can’t say that this is the type of sonic adventure I’m prone to jump all over, but I have to give Merrill Garbus credit. Word is she was a puppeteer in a former life, and that doesn’t surprise me one bit given the way her music rhythm-izes synthetic sounds into a strangely organic flow. There’s a whole bunch of absolutely fascinating musical moments contained herein, and she performs with a combination of giftedness and passion that is entirely rare. Even though I don’t completely get it, I can definitely appreciate the musical vision that W H O K I L L represents. I’ll certainly revisit this one, and keep my fingers crossed for Garbus as she becomes indie rock’s musical rocket woman. ("My Country", "Gangsta")

REACTION KEY

[****]: Enthusiastic. Frequent rotation. A buyer. Contender for year’s best.
[++]: Positive. Good stuff. Possible grower?
[ind]: Indifferent.. Underwhelmed. I don’t expect to come back to this one.
[—]: Negative. A real screw-up. Don’t even bother.

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