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Ears & Fingers 1/9/13

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks-Wig Out at Jagbag’s
My relationship with Stephen Malkmus and the music he has created across his career has been messy. When I first heard Pavement years ago, I absolutely hated it and felt obliged to tell myself that it was just noise with lazy songwriting. Looking back, my current pseudo-music snob persona would slowly remove the glasses I don’t need for better vision and say, “Umm…excuse me, but you clearly don’t get it.” That would be accurate because I didn’t get it, or to be fair, I wasn’t ready for it.

Now that I have spent ample time with “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain” and “Slanted and Enchanted,” I can say that I have grown to love Malkmus’ writing style, and I wish I cared enough to pay more attention during the height of Pavement’s career.     All is not lost though. Malkmus continues on with his band, The Jicks, and is still putting out really great tunes. As the title suggests, the album is fun, and it shows Malkmus’ nerdy side at its strongest. Song subjects run a broad spectrum on this long player. From basketball player’s nicknames, bar fights, venison and the Grateful Dead, Malkmus covers a lot of ground. “Wig Out” displays the songwriter playing to his strengths and making it feel effortless. “We grew up listening to the music from the best decade ever,” Malkmus declares in “Lariat,” the lead single from the album. “Lariat” is my personal high point, and is full of the wit, catchiness and oddball melody we have come to expect. Being in the indie rock spotlight for years, Malkmus hasn’t lost his edge, which is good for those of us who were late to the party. “Wig Out at Jagbag’s” is out now via Matador Records.

If You Haven’t Heard: Damien Jurado
I have absolutely no problem calling Damien Jurado the most underrated recording artist of at least the past decade. He lives a quiet existence underneath the surface of what has become modern day folk-pop, but is highly respected and looked up to by plenty of bigger names in the current music landscape. You know that layered vocal falsetto that we have come to know and love from Bon Iver? Jurado has been doing that for years. He is best friends with David Bazan, and has a long list of collaborators and emulators, whose names are more easily recognized than his own. Included in that list is Father John Misty (Josh Tillman), who recently wrote a lengthy essay to stir up interest for one of his favorite artists on the release of Jurado’s 11th studio album, “Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son.” Somewhere midway through the essay, Tillman pens these words, “Damien Jurado is every character in every Damien Jurado song. He is the gun, the purple anteater, the paper wings, the avalanche, the air show disaster, Ohio, the ghost of his best friend’s wife. It is a universe unto its own, with its own symbolism, creation myth and liturgy. You might go as far as to call it a religion, and your religion is a character in his religion.” This is a very poignant summation of a career lived in sad shadows. Jurado is going to keep on keeping on, and if lead single ‘Silver Timothy’ is any indication, this forthcoming album will be one of his best. “Brothers & Sisters of the Eternal Son” is out January 21st via Secretly Canadian Records.