Sound Advice

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
Mirror Traffic
4 stars

Stephen Malkmus' previous band, Pavement, might be the most influential indie rock band of all time. When Weezer played its first shows in LA, the band was frequently mistaken for Pavement, who invented the arty rock that Weezer copied, popified and brought to the masses.

Throughout Malkmus' 11-year tenure with The Jicks (Pavement's been defunct since 1999), he swapped the skittish lo-fi model that Pavement thrived on for jammier guitar-rock trickery. On Mirror Traffic, Malkmus' most sundry solo effort to date, he opts for a mixed bag of flighty melodies, spastic rock jams and folky balladry. Thanks in part to Beck's (another Pavement disciple) subtle production hand, Mirror Traffic conveys a sophistication that Malkmus' previous outings lacked.

Those who caught Weezer's show at the Del Mar Fairgrounds two months ago owe it to themselves to buy this album.

For fans of: Weezer, Nada Surf, Sonic Youth
Standout tracks: "No One Is (As I Are Be)," "Tigers"
Goes well with: Flannels, Vans, underachieving
See them live:  Oct. 20 at BellyUp Tavern, Solana Beach, bellyup.com

 

 

Bobby
Self-titled
3 stars

Disclaimer: Bobby has zero band members that actually go by the name Bobby. Bizarro name aside, the Massachusetts collective (with seven members) make sonically fertile space-rock that's hard not to like.

The majority of songs on the band's self-titled release-some surpassing the seven-minute mark-go from really pretty to downright serene. Standout track "It's Dead Outside" is the aural equivalent of slipping into a Snuggie: it's furry, warm and strange. And while the majority of Bobby relies heavily on milky textures, a few tracks, like "Sore Spores," cut through with a marriage of creepy synth hooks, bouncy acoustic guitars and quirky percussion reminiscent of early Modest Mouse.

Bobby lets their dense arrangements breath by utilizing sparse vocals that are more functional than indulgent.

For fans of: Pixies, Pinback, Bjork, Broken Social Scene
Standout tracks: "Sore Spores," "It's Dead Outside"
Goes well with: Leisurely bike rides, napping, spooning

 

 

 

Zee Avi
Ghostbird
2  stars

Zee Avi's whirlwind rise to fame is the quintessential Youtube fairy tale. She posted a video, her friends told her to post more, and soon thereafter, Avi was signed to Brushfire Records (partly owned by Jack Johnson ).

The 25-year-old Malaysia-born singer-songwriter makes tropical folk that borders on cutesy (she sings about honey bees), while still managing to strike a nerve with lucid tales of heartbreak and despair. That said, Avi's newest release, Ghostbird, should be consumed in minute doses. Just as Jack Johnson's sing-songy nursery rhymes can become redundant and flat-out annoying, longer stints of Avi's Ukulele-infused pop can do the same.

But for now, Ghostbird is a major step toward maturation for Avi.  Her experimentation with country ("31 days"), afro-pop ("The Book of Morris Johnson"), jazzy ("Madness") and waltzy ("Anchor") rhythms represent a tasteful shift in artistic direction that will likely set her up for a long and prosperous career.

For fans of: Cat Power, Regina Spektor, Billy Holiday
Standout tracks: "Anchor," "The Book of Morris Johnson"
Goes well with: Post-breakup sulking, bonfires, chick-flicks based in Hawaii

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