In February, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks returned with “Middle America”, their first new single in four years. The indie rockers are back again today with even bigger news: They’re set to release their seventh studio album, titled Sparkle Hard, on May 18th.
Due out through Matador Records, LP follows 2014’s Wig Out at Jagbags. Writing sessions began in 2015. When it came time to actually record in May 2017, they holed themselves up at Halfling, a Portland studio managed by The Decemberists multi-instrumentalist Chris Funk, who also served as producer.
According to Malkmus, he and the band initially struggled to find a balance between retaining their indie rock legacy and renewing their sound. Sparkle Hard is that common ground — there are unmistakble Jicks moments amidst others that are fresh to the group’s catalog. “If 2014’s Wig Out At Jag Bags balanced the lengthy prog workouts of Pig Lib with Mirror Traffic’s sparky pop moments,” a press release adds, “then Sparkle Hard bears less obvious direct relation to what’s come before.”
“It’s refining what we’re doing,” Malkmus explains further. “I was trying to keep it direct, for the most part. I’ve been ‘zigzag-y’ and I like that, but I wanted to keep it tight, even if there are some long songs. People are quick to get things today; attention is low and there’s a lot of noise out there. We’re aware of it, so I was thinking about how I could cut through the noise a bit. In a way, that sounds kind of pop, but it’s not really – it’s just acknowledging the reality of how we all take things in now.”
Among the 11 tracks on the record, there’s a song that references Freddie Gray and another dubbed a “metal sci-fi tune.” There’s also Auto-Tune, an acoustic folk intro, and guest vocals from the one and only Kim Gordon (if you’ll recall, in 1999 Malkmus and Gordon played together in the Sonic Youth side-project Kim’s Bedroom).
As a preview, Malkmus & co. have shared “Shiggy”, a jubilant stomper. “It’s nice to just play a four-chord banger,” the lead singer says of the track. Hear it below.
In support of the new album, Malkmus and the Jicks are scheduled to tour North America beginning in June. Find those dates here.
Sparkle Hard Artwork:
Sparkle Hard Tracklist:
01. Cast Off
02. Future suite
03. Solid Solk
04. Bike Lane
05. Middle America
11. Difficulties/Let Them Eat Vowels
Listen to Malkmus discuss Sparkle Hard and the possibility of another Pavement reunion in a new edition of Kyle Meredith With…