Stephen Malkmus – Sparkle Hard
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AS WELL AS BLENDING linguistic elegance and musical levity, Sparkle Hard affirms Stephen Malkmus’s increasingly contemplative approach. The songwriter dials down his flippant rock lexicog- rapher persona from the get-go, as Cast Off’s opening piano chords establish a troubled mood that pervades even the groovy choogle of Bike Lane, a venomous satire of the 2015 killing of Freddie Gray by Baltimore police – “Kick off your jackboots, it’s time to unwind” – and then bleeds into the pointedly titled Middle America (“Men are scum, I won’t deny”), a regretful, ultramelodious late-VU swoon. There’s a cosmic twinkle throughout, brightest amid Kite’s almighty guitar ascension, or the Can-go-jive-talking exit Let Them Eat Vowels, while Refute, a bluegrass duet with Kim Gordon, leans more to pathos than mischief. The PG Wodehouse of the indie generation has scarcely dealt a finer hand.

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