Tag Archive | "Stephen Malkmus"

Best of the Rest 2018

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Best of the Rest 2018

Posted on 28 December 2018 by Dorian

We’ve already published our list of the best albums we heard in 2018. We could easily fill a top 10 list of tracks from 2018 from the top 5 albums alone, it was a string selection. But there were lots of other albums and songs released this year that we loved that didn’t quite make it into that chart.

So here, presented in no particular order with no comment, are 10 of may favourite tracks from other records that came out this year.

Eyelids – Maybe More

Steve Mason – Stars Around My Heart

The Breeders – Nervous Mary

Stephen Malkmus – Middle America

Swearin’ – Grow Into A Ghost

Teleman – Cactus

Superchunk – What A Time To Be Alive

David Byrne – Every Day Is A Miracle

Gaz Coombes – Walk The Walk

Menace Beach – Black Rainbow Sound

Compiled by Dorian Rogers

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Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Brighton Concorde 2 (October 25, 2018)

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Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Brighton Concorde 2 (October 25, 2018)

Posted on 01 November 2018 by Dorian

I don’t feel like I’ve seen Stephen Malkmus play often, but counting through the times (Pavement at Reading 1992 and their ATP in 2010, with The Jicks at Reading 2001 and three times in Brighton) this is my 6th time seeing him play live.

Stephen Malkmus 1

I’ve also never seen him play a bad show. The reunited Pavement shows may have been done more out of duty than love, but the songs were great so I’ll take it. Given how much I enjoy his work it is odd that I only really keep half an ear on his solo recordings. I enjoy them a lot when I make the effort but I don’t rush to listen to them.

Here on the Concorde 2 stage in Brighton he plays a set that draws heavily from his recent albums and it sounds great from start to finish. Tunes like ‘Middle America’, from Sparkle Hard, may lean towards his more laconic side, but they are so well constructed that I’m happy to sit back a bit with them.

He throws some more upbeat tunes into the set, personal favourites ‘Stick Figures In Love’ and ‘Jo Jo’s Jacket’ both get an airing and they really highlight what a great band he has backing him.

Stephen Malkmus 2

One thing that really strikes you watching Stephen Malkmus live is what a great guitar player he is, and what a confident stage presence. His days in Pavement may have left him with the reputation of being a slacker with scrappy musicianship, but this is far from the truth. As he throws his guitar behind his head, never missing a note, you can see how skilful he is.

He’s witty too. St one point a scuffle breaks out in the crowd, some people a little inebriated causing problems. The band reprimand them, Malkmus standing statue like displaying two peace signs. The scuffle ends and the crowd calms. He leaps into a boxer’s pose, hands clenched. “Save your fists for the class war!” he proclaims.

He has also softened in his stance to nostalgia and his old band, he is clearly at ease with his musical legacy and what the crowd wants to hear. When the band return for the inevitable encore he launches into a raucous version of ‘Stereo’, the crowd (inevitably) goes wild. Last of all he appears to deviate from the planned final song, responding to requests from the crowd, and plays early EP track ‘Box Elder’.

His European tour is almost over, you’d need to head to Paris on Saturday to catch him before he returns to the US, but I’d recommend catching him next time you can. in the meantime, give Sparkle Hard a listen.

By Dorian Rogers

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Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Wig Out at Jagbags

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Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Wig Out at Jagbags

Posted on 12 January 2014 by Dorian

With a title that nods to Dischord band Dag Nasty and oblique references to Pavement’s recent reunion tour this album says a lot about Malkmus’s attitude to musical nostalgia.

Wig Out at Jagbags

The single from the album ‘Lariat’, currently on rotation on 6 Music, contains another nostalgic moment with him singing about growing up “listening to the music from the best decade ever” (he’s talking about the 80s). I have no doubt that Malkmus genuinely loves that decade’s music the best, but the closest musical counterpoints for this album are the 1970s (you can hear a bit Zappa here, a bit of Steely Dan there across the album) and the 1990s when Pavement were the most interesting indie-rock band on the scene. In ‘Shibboleth’ we even get the Jicks channeling the Pixies through the Malkmus filter.

The album, recorded during a spell in Berlin, seems to find Malkmus at his most relaxed and positive in years. Other than the aforementioned dig at his own, and others, band reunions (a dig that comes across as pretty playful) this is a pretty positive and good natured record. Indeed, in recent interviews about the recording Malkmus admits to being friends with Fran Healy of Travis and even got his mate to source a local horn section for the album. The horn section is used well on a few songs and adds a nice dimension to the sound (especially on the excellent ‘Chartjunk’) although in other respects there is little here to surprise anyone familiar with his solo or late Pavement work.

The band manage to produce a sound that is simultaneously slick (these are good players) but loose enough to retain some of the slacker qualities Malkmus is known for. New drummer Jake Morris has pretty big shoes to fill, following on from Janet Weiss and John Moen, as the band’s sticksman. But he acquits himself well and there is no noticeable drop in quality in this area.

Overall this is a very enjoyable record, perhaps the most consistently likable Malkmus solo album to date, and to my personal preference is mercifully short on some of the more laboured guitar workouts that tainted a lot of his mid-period solo work.  What it does lack is the couple of killer must-listen tracks that you’d be sure to include on a best-of album. The singles are good, and the quality is consistently high, but I’m not sure I could pick out many individual songs to include among his career best.

However, that doesn’t take anything away from this being a very welcome release from the band, sometimes consistency and likability is enough to make an album a success.

8/10

By Dorian Rogers

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Top 20 Albums of 2011

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Top 20 Albums of 2011

Posted on 02 December 2011 by Joe

We have to admit the year started badly in terms of album releases.  By March we were struggling to think of more than a couple of excellent album releases let alone begin a shortlist of 20.

Then winter turned to spring and the flood gates opened with  new bands emerging and some old stagers reliving their glory days and in some cases bettering them. We have our first ever classical music entry in an end of year album list, some great new UK folk music and a staggering achievement in song writing by one familiar face in our end of year lists.

We’ve even found room for an album about 1970/80s wrestling by one of the music industry’s funniest and most caustic writers and artists.

In the end its turned out to be a pretty fine year for releases, as two of the biggest names of 1990s alternative music battle it out for our top two places.  Get your bus fare ready, prepare to race down to your local independent record store, and enjoy Neonfiller.com’s Top 20 Albums of 2011.

20. Johann Johannson – The Miners’ Hymns

In a year of public sector cuts, strikes and the Gleision mining tragedy this soundtrack by  Jóhann Jóhannsson to Bill Morrison’s mining documentary of the same name helped it become our first classical music entry in an end of year list. The haunting and powerful music he creates to depict the brutal hardships of the industry and the chaos of the 1984 strike were recorded live at Durham Cathedral, which gives it added gravitas. Read our full review here.

19. Okkervil River – I Am Very Far

This Texan band’s follow up to its critically acclaimed previous albums The Stage Names and The Stand Ins brings more fire and bite to their sound as frontman Will Sheff took co-production duties. At times cinematic, at others indie rock not one of its 11 tracks are skippable. Among are highlights are opener The Valley and one of its singles Wake Up and Be Fine.  Read our full review here.

18. John Maus – We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves

Former Ariel Pink collaborator John Maus has plunged deep into the murky waters of the early 1980s to deliver one of the most stark, fascinating and strangely enjoyable slices of synth pop you will hear all year. Among our highlights on this, his third album, is the track ‘Cop Killer’. Read our full review here.

17. The Leisure Society  – Into The Murky Water

This second album by The Leisure Society gives us the urge to jump in our Neon Filler branded Morris Minor, dress up in our  Prisoner gear and take a dip in the murky waters of Bognor Regis or Portmerion, stopping off for some fish and chips and a pickled egg. This eccentric, most English of albums was one of the highlights of our summer. Read our full review here.

16. Timber Timbre – Creep on Creepin On

Featuring core multi-instrumentalist members Taylor Kirk, Mika Posen and Simon Trottier this peach of an album by Canada’s Timber Timbre seems to inhabit another universe where 1950’s B-movie soundtracks and dirty rock and roll rule supreme. It’s a strange mix that works thanks to Kirk’s soulfully odd (or should that be oddly soulful) vocals and the added instrumentation of pianist Mathieu Charbonneau and saxophonist Colin Stetson to add to its vintage charm. Read our full review here.

15. Jonny Kearney and Lucy Farrell – Kite

Just like the Mercury nominations we like to feature a new folk act in our end of year round ups. This year’s slot goes to the excellent Jonny Kearney and Lucy Farrell. Nominated for a 2011 BBC Folk horizon award, given to emerging new talent, they have clearly caught the ear of Radio 2’s Mike Harding and his production team. Rachel Unthank and her husband Adrian McNally are also admirers and produced this wonderful debut from the pair  in Northumberland. Read our full review here.

14. Singing Adams – Everybody Friends Now

This debut album from former Broken Family Band man Steven Adams’ latest project was one of the best indie-pop releases of the year, mixing Adams’ clever and poignant lyrics with a fine bunch of melodies. His band are a bunch of seasoned indie and alternative musicians and live they are well drilled outfit. We have been so impressed that they topped our Top Ten bands to watch out for in 2012 list. Our highlights on this excellent album include the singles I Need Your Mind and Injured Party. Read our full review here.

13. Bill Callahan – Apocalypse

With its stripped back feel, punctuated with squealing electric guitars and flutes, Apocalypse can be an unsettling listen at times, but not for too long as Callahan’s luxuriously deep voice has a calming influence and can easily draw you back to normality.  Read our full review here.

12. Battles – Gloss Drop

There are so many striking aspects to Gloss Drop, the follow up to the crazy, cartoonified thrill ride that was Battles’ last album Mirrored.  The range of singers including Gary Numan, the sense of fun and above all some superb drumming are just some that immediately spring to mind. Read our full review here.

11. David Lowery  – The Palace Guards

The Palace Guards is the first solo album from  Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven front-man David Lowery. It’s taken a while to come out but  its been worth the wait. This is among the best work from one of alternative music’s most engaging songwriters. Read our full review here.

10. The Miserable Rich – Miss You In The Days

Three albums in and The Miserable Rich are really hitting their stride as one of the UK’s most innovative acts, mixing compelling story telling with chamber pop and most importantly some damn fine tunes. Among the highlights on this their third album is the swirling Ringing the Changes. Read our full review here.

9. Kathryn Calder – Are You My Mother?

This  solo album from New Pornographer Calder has the professionalism and confidence you’d expect from a seasoned performer and her personality shines through lifting it above the norm and adding real charm to proceedings. The album was recorded while looking after her mother who was dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease. This gives the album an underlying sense of melancholy in places that adds an emotional depth few songwriters can manage. Read our full review here.

8. The Mountain Goats – All Eternals Deck

The Mountain Goats frontman John Darnielle’s song writing and survival instincts grow stronger with each release.  With three different producers there’s a surprising consistency as he exposes his hidden demons and offers up  some bittersweet tales of the famous along the way, from Charles Bronson to Judy Garland.  Uplifting stuff.  Read our full review here.

7. Low – C’Mon

C’mon may just be this year’s great American album, with echoes of Johnny Cash and Gram Parsons throughout. With very precise production from Matt Beckley and the band,  which is fronted by husband and wife Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, they have created an album that is melancholy, epic and just plain beautiful in places. Read our full review here.

6. Destroyer – Kaputt

An immaculate attention detail in recreating the sounds and production of the 1980s has helped Dan Bejar (aka Destroyer) become the second member of Canadian super group The New Pornographers to enter our Top 20.  Bejar has never sounded better as he takes the role of world weary rock star reminiscing in style. Part New Order, part Prefab Sprout, this is arguably his best album to date.  Read our full review here.

5. Wilco – The Whole Love

Wilco - The Whole Love

The Whole Love is probably closest in style to previous album Wilco (The Album) but  that little bit better. It also shows  a band at the peak of its powers, playing with confidence, inventiveness and real skill. You get the pop Wilco, the rock Wilco, the experimental Wilco and the soft melodic Wilco, all of which adds up to one of the most satisfying releases of the year. Read our full review here.

4. Luke Haines – 9 1/2 Psychedelic Meditations On British Wrestling Of The 1970s and Early 1980s.

Luke Haines Wrestling

The former Auteur and author of the excellent  book Bad Vibes returns from a two year recording break to turn his attention to the world of British wrestling from around 30 years ago. Witty, concise, well executed and completely unlike any other album we’ve heard this year. Haines clearly isn’t quite ready to throw the towel in just yet on his recording career. Read our full review here.

3. Darren Hayman – January Songs

Busy doesn’t even come close to describing  Darren Hayman’s year. He was involved in the  Vostok 5 art exhibition and album about space explorers, released an album of piano ballads  The Ships Piano, plays bass in Rotifer and  is involved in all sorts of Christmas releases for  Fika Recordings. His crowning achievement though for us was to write,  record and release a song a day during January. The end product January Songs, which is available to download and from January 2012 in CD format, contains some of the former Hefner frontman’s best work and offered a  great example of social media interaction between artist and audience, who helped him along the way with lyrics and ideas.  Read our full review here.

2. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – Mirror Traffic

Thanks to production from Beck the former Pavement frontman has ditched some of his rock star, guitar squealing cliches to reveal one of  his best albums for years and certainly his best since his Pavement glory days. The finely honed  single The Senator is among our many highlights. Read our full review here.

1. Boston Spaceships – Let It Beard

Let It Beard

Narrowly pipping Stephen Malkmus to the top spot is another veteran of the 1990s US alternative music scene, Robert Pollard and his act Boston Spaceships. The album echoes a number of Pollard’s favourite classic acts, the Beatles are in there, but it is The Who that are the most obvious influence on this guitar drenched album. It has the Pollard stamp throughout and you can’t imagine anyone else producing a record quite like this now, or any time in the last 30 years. Read our full review here.

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

See also: Spotify – Neonfiller.com’s Best of 2011 Spotify List.


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Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – Mirror Traffic

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Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – Mirror Traffic

Posted on 19 August 2011 by Joe

With Beck at the helm Stephen Malkmus and his post Pavement band The Jicks have created their most focused and appealing record to date.

Gone is the meandering and squealing 70s rock solos of their last album, 2008’s Real Emotional Trash. In its place is a genuine warmth and commitment. Mirror Traffic  sounds like an album that Beck and the band have spent time on rather than just jumped in the studio, jammed for a while and then said ‘that’ll do’.

The most immediate improvement is the length of the songs. Take track eight ‘Spazz’ for example. At just 2min 30 sec it drives along neatly rather than careers and crashes as Real Emotional Trash’s tracks did.  It ends leaving you wanting more, rather than reaching for the fast forward button as an indulgent five minute guitar solo becomes too tedious to bare.

Another change is the lyrical focus, with Malkmus’s streams of consciousness seemingly making more sense in places. He’s still a silly man lyrically. But on stand out track ‘Senator’, with its chorus “I know what the senator wants, what the senator wants is a blow job,” the listener is left in no doubt what Malkmus thinks of US political corruption.

Beck has also brought a range of styles to the production table. It’s still an alternative rock album but on track two ‘No One Is (As I Are Be)’ the rhythm section sounds more like 1960s folk group Pentangle, with its soft jazz style and acoustic guitar. Beck’s fondness for the 1960s shines through further on the track as trumpets softly nestle in the background.

Among other standouts  is ‘Asking Price’, with its moments of Velvet Underground guitar playing. ‘Stick Figures in Love’ is as fine an indiepop track as you will hear all year.

There’s the occasional unnecessary moment. I’m not sure what value there is in the short instrumental ‘Jumblegloss’ for example. But its so short and inoffensive and the rest of the album is so good that it hardly matters.

We had the pleasure of seeing Pavement at their ATP Festival in Minehead in 2010. There all the band’s influences were laid out. If one criticism could be made it was that the line up was a little too guitar heavy, a little too full of fret wankery. Perhaps Malkmus thought the same too in preparing this album, which is one of those rare moments in music where the timing, the mood and the production come together just perfectly. Real emotion without the trash.

9.5/10

by Joe Lepper

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Top Five Bob Dylan Covers

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Top Five Bob Dylan Covers

Posted on 24 May 2011 by Joe

To celebrate Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday today we thought we’d compile a short list of some of our favourite Bob Dylan covers. Hope you enjoy, oh, and happy birthday Bob.

5. Stephen Malkmus – Ballad of a Thin Man

4. XTC – All Along the Watchtower

3. Jim James and Calexico – Goin’ to Acapulco

2. Nick Drake – Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright

1. Jimi Hendrix – All Along the Watchtower ….again. So good we had to include this track twice

Compiled by Joe Lepper

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