On Stephen Malkmus’ third post-Pavement album, “Face The Truth,” the indie-icon continues to refine his singular brand of elliptical rock. Going at it alone a la his self-titled debut (although his band The Jicks contribute heavily), the chameleonic “Face The Truth” moves effortlessly between boisterous electro-pop, bluesy workouts and hushed sing-a-longs.

Schizophrenic opener “Pencil Rot” gives a good indication of what’s in store: Like anything Malkmus-related, expect the unexpected. Right on this schedule, “It Kills” slips into more comfortable terrain with the return of his signature guitar tone and a vintage Malkmus vocal melody that has no right to work, but does. The soft ballad “Freeze the Saints” shines in its unadorned simplicity: Instead of the usual piling on of effects and instruments, the wistful melody stands on its own while Malkmus earnestly sings pensive prose.

Centerpiece “No More Shoes” is the best song here and maybe his finest since Pavement split. All spiraling electric guitar and modest-but-timely flourishes, as is often the case with Malkmus, his brilliance shines through in the details.

– Jake O’Connell, AP Writer

Right before tearing into the song’s searing introductory solo he sneers, “Get your back,” wielding the subsequent jagged guitar line like a weapon.

Obviously saving his better stuff for the later innings, the album’s second half constitutes his best run as a solo artist. The sunny afternoon-folk of “Mama” – the perfect chaser to “No More Shoes” – has him going on about her cooking and living miles from a “fortified town.” On its heels, “Kindling for the Master,” the weirdest thing here, thankfully ushers his return to meaningful/meaningless wordplay and his patented blend of fractured disco and psyche-hop.

Closer “Malediction” sums up the record’s reassured stance: “So long/ goodbye to the nervous apprehension/ I certainly won’t miss you.” In truth, this is world’s away from the messy ramshackle of early Pavement singles or even classics like “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain.” On “Face The Truth,” Malkmus almost completely ditches the irony for conviction.

– Jake O’Connell, AP Writer


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