Album: Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, Mirror Traffic (Domino)

When Stephen Malkmus describes Mirror Traffic as "relatively approachable", it's already something of a curio.

He's not wrong, either: these are some of the most engaging songs he's written, with beguiling melodies wrapped around typically gnomic lyrics, and little undue instrumental indulgence. The influence of Beck as producer has clearly tidied up Malkmus's muse, which blossoms in various directions: "No One Is (As I Are Be)" sounds like Pentangle covering "Ode to Billie Joe", "All Over Gently" has the folksy-jazzy tone of the Grateful Dead, and there are welcome reminders of his classic indie-punk blurt in songs such as "Spazz". And he can still whittle a decent image too, as in lines like "there's a long hard book that needs reading". A sterling return to form.

DOWNLOAD THIS: No One Is (As I Are Be); Tigers; All Over Gently

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