Stephen Malkmus, Wig Out At Jagbags (Matador)
Sure, sure, make jokes about his dad jokes, tsk-tsk his connubial bliss, talk up his graying hair. You’ve still got nine out of ten reviews explaining what exactly a jagbag is, so remember his jokes aren’t jokes at all - they’re witticisms, junk rhymes, amphigouri, brainy claptrap, everything befitting a fussy craftsman who has rarely courted cool or even rock and roll since breaking up his band. I’m glad Malkmus is back to saving his tossed-off wisdom for the tangled interior of verses rather than hanging choruses upon them. And his classic rock signifiers have rarely been deployed so lovingly, goofball time changes and all. There’s the slanted Workingman’s Dead sunshine on Pavement-worthy “The Janitor Revealed,” the lush college radio double bummer of “Lariat,” the phased-bass prog nonsense of “Shibboleth,” and those dual-lead guitars opening “Planetary Motion” and juicing across “Chartjunk” with such virtuosity you’d think Malkmus mistook Steely Dan for a boogie band. I even dig the twitchy 1.41 Johnny Thunders pogo that is “Rumble At The Rainbo” - a slice of rock sentimentality worthy of Mott the Hoople, and not just because SM calls out Ian Hunter three tracks later (“Mott The Hoople’s/got no scruples”). As such easy lines suggest, he’s what the academics call a minor poet. But how many minor poets can match his perpetual boyishness, his nerd bonafides, his mostly successful attempts at remaining abashed by his own romanticism? And how many 2014 rock and rollers would risk the uncool of playing so much guitar? I mean, aside from Kurt Vile?
Marc Perrenoud Trio, Vestry Lamento (Double Moon)
Just how Euro is this youthful Geneva/Lausanne/Freiburg piano trio? So Euro they name their slow blues after a Monet series. So Euro their compositions give shout-outs to Igor and Ignaz Bösendorfer. And so Euro they disassemble old warhorse “Body And Soul” the way theatre troupes locate Shakespeare tragedies in any era aside from that originally intended by the author - a little ambient noise to open, a hint of Chopin here, a trace of the minuet there. But Perrenoud clearly adores both melody and the blues, coyly splashing a little dissonance into the mix even while his chords rise and fall in shimmering runs reminiscent of Richie Beirach. Drummer Regamey and bassist Marco Müller bring their game, the former hanging tight even as the leader showboats his way across the Bösendorfer tribute, the latter walking his bass all over the straight-ahead swing of “Madame JoJo”. And there’s little to no trace of the Euro academy on the quite funky shuffle of opening blues “Vestry Lamento”.
Burial, Rival Dealer (Hyperdub)
One year ago, following the arrival of the sombre Truant / Rough Sleeper EP, I wrote that the music of everybody’s favorite maximalist digital composer “has assumed greater complexity - or grandiosity, one might worriedly note”. A few weeks ago, following the arrival of the less-sombre Rival Dealer EP, a trusted source opined “I like Burial, but this third track sounds like Enya”. And Enya it is. Track one squelches along nicely, track two is brief, and track three oozes liquid cheese. Thunder claps, rain patter, flutes, whisper-moans, heaving strings - really, even if you vocally support William Bevan’s move into the realm of anti-bullying PSAs, don’t bullied teens of all identities deserve better than this cornball mood music? Probably not Burial’s worst. But if somebody starts telling you this is his best, narrow your eyes accordingly.