STEPHEN J MALKMUS – ” Traditional Techniques ” Best Albums Of 2020

Posted: December 5, 2020 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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When Stephen Malkmus first arrived on the scene in the early Nineties, as frontman and prime creative force in Pavement, the area of music with which he was associated couldn’t really have been further from the techno-rave sounds of the day. Electronic dance music, then as now, was about posthuman precision, inorganic textures, and hyper-digital clarity. Whereas the lo-fi movement in underground rock championed a messthetic of sloppiness, rough edges, and raw warmth – a hundred exquisitely subtle shades of distortion and abrasion. “Imperfect sound forever” was the rallying cry for a micro-generation of slacker-minded dreamers and misfits.

For his third record in as many years, the sometimes Pavement frontman chills out, unplugs and delivers a record of stoner folk-inspired songs that are among his most direct, affecting to date. For a guy who’s been known for 30 years primarily as a musician who is, at times, too clever for his own good, Malkmus shows real heart here.

While associated with staunch indie rock snobbery, Stephen Malkmus has long dabbled in jam band territory, all the way back to Pavement’s final album, Terror Twilight. (Before? Maybe.) So when he announced Traditional Techniques, his third album in three years, as “stoner folk” it wasn’t really as much of a stretch as Matador may have wanted you to believe. At least not in that way. It is, however, his quietest, most introspective and straight-from-the-heart record he’s ever made.

To call Stephen Malkmus’ Traditional Techniques an “acoustic record” wouldn’t be inaccurate, but it doesn’t quite capture the sonic expanse of this midcareer gem. “ACC Kirtan,” “Xian Man,” and “Brainwashed” unfurl into psychedelic sprawl, while elsewhere Malkmus takes his 12-string toward country-rock, or classic folk, or surrounds it with woodwinds, drums, and string instruments from Africa and the Middle East. Traditional Techniques revels in the gray space between frank and enigmatic, whether exploring love and friendship, or in yarns about propane smugglers or the extremely online. “May the word be spread via cracked emoji,” Malkmus sings on “Shadowbanned” — it’s unclear what exactly that may mean, but like the best, inscrutable Malkmus lines, it rings true.

Stephen presents “Juliefuckingette,” an A-side-worthy B-side off of Traditional Techniques. Additionally, he announces a rescheduled North American tour (See below for the full dates).
As with Traditional Techniques, “Juliefuckingette” is new phase folk music for new phase folks. Malkmus’ wry lyricism unwinds over his 12-string acoustic guitar: “Abolish the fanfiction set // I don’t wanna clean up the logorrhea mess // It’s the last brand standing // You know you wanna kill it but you can’t kill that quite yet.”

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