From Mirror Traffic’s very first loping riff, that which opens the album on easy-going country jaunt “Tigers” and is accompanied by pedal steel, it’s clear this is going to be an enjoyable album. “This record is relatively approachable,” Stephen Malkmus admits in the press materials for his fifth album and first since Pavement’s triumphant reunion tour last year. Recorded in Los Angeles with producer Beck, Mirror Traffic is varied to boot, dabbling in slacker folk (“No One Is (As I Are Be)”), adrenalized, blow-job-themed rock ‘n’ roll (“Senator”) and instrumental psych jams (“Jumblegloss”), to name but a few of the styles featured.
Indeed, there is a lot of variety—a lot of music, really—here, and with 15 tracks that top out at just north of the 50-minute mark, it’s a lot to take in. Or maybe it’s a lot to take in in these ADD-addled times where we’re constantly inundated with new bands, buzzy songs and inexplicable sub-genres. Malkmus knows this, and he’s not afraid to stretch out or get a little bit complicated (see: Pig Lib or Real Emotional Trash). But he’s also the guy who once sang, “Music scene is crazy, bands start up each and every day.” It’s kind of reassuring to see him taking it easy this time out.