Stephen Malkmus, 'Xian Man': Song You Need to Know - Rolling Stone
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Song You Need to Know: Stephen Malkmus, ‘Xian Man’

The first taste of his excellent upcoming album, Traditional Techniques

Stephen Malkmus’ 2019 album Groove Denied was a mix of electronic tunes and garage-rock, recorded minus his longtime band the Jicks. He’s quickly following that enjoyable record with another great solo LP, Traditional Techniques. Where Groove Denied‘s synthy leanings felt like somewhat of a detour, Traditional Techniques is more of a culmination; it’s a folk-rock record, with Malkmus playing acoustic guitar and going all the way in on the fireside, cardigan-sweater-and wool-socks guitar beauty that’s long been a hallmark of his solo albums since leaving Pavement over 20 years ago.

The idea to record a mostly acoustic record came about while Malkmus was working on his last album with the Jicks, 2018’s Sparkle Hard. “Malkmus took on Traditional Techniques as a kind of self-dare,” reads a statement accompanying the album announcement. “Conceived while recording Sparkle Hard at Portland’s Halfling Studio, Malkmus had observed the variety of acoustic instruments available for use. The idea escalated within a matter of weeks into a full set of songs, and shortly thereafter into a realized and fully committed album.”

He’s joined on the album by guitarist Matt Sweeney — a member of the great Nineties indie-rock band Chavez — who has collaborated with Will Oldham’s beloved Bonnie “Prince” Billy and also appeared in Billy Corgan’s early-’00s supergroup Zwan. The first single, “Xian Man,” is a sweet, wintry jam that lands somewhere between the third Velvet Underground album and Fairport Convention’s What We Did on Our Holidays, with Malkmus banging away elegantly on his acoustic guitar and Sweeney adding cool, droney electric leads. The whole album, out March 6th, is a treat, just the right mood-stabilizing stuff to get you through those last couple weeks of winter.

Find a playlist of all of our recent Songs You Need to Know selections on Spotify.


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