Topic: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

Some people have started posting their impressions in other threads, but maybe we could start a new thread for this?

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

Good idea. Initial impressions...solid album start to finish. Not mind blowing, but no bad songs.

I'm a little overwhelmed today. New SM+Jicks, Courtney Barnett and Parquet Courts...also found the new Tim Burgess (Charlatans) album...so it will take me a few days to really get my head around all of these.

I dream in beige.

3 (edited by Stab Alf 2018-05-17 22:32:23)

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

Fuck, this is just a fantastic album.  Really amazed.  Was not expecting to be so moved.  Yeah, definitely a warmness to it. Keep on hearing Styx, High Llamas, Can, even Beck. Solid Silk (!),  Kite, cast off, and Difficulties were all standouts. Future Suite too. Hell, liked it all. Funk did a great job producing....  Mellow prog beauty....

Every note and instrument seems spaced perfectly throughout too (sans Shiggy, but that’s great as well).

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

Those strings on Solid Silk.  Christ.

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

First impression was confusing.  So layered, so many opposed sounds, so much fluidity.

Second listen, HOLY SHIT!  I love this.  Bike Lane won't leave the dome.

6 (edited by setyabacksetyabacksetya 2018-05-18 10:37:07)

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

Cast off. I need some attention! Perfect opening track to a rock album in 2018. Steve's voice is pure gold here. The piano part is like a bastardized tisket-a-tasket, playful  tease melody, all the space around it is beautiful.

Future suit. Love how it flows from angular to groovy like a Phish song. Guitars are synths are working perfectly together on this track. The vocal tracking and percussion section at the end is killer!

Solid silk. This song is blowing my mind. It’s like the most Fleetwood Mac or 80's Dead sounding thing they’ve ever done right? I was more excited to hear this tune than any other because I LOVED the acoustic versions, and lyrically I think this is Steve's best work in a long time. "Never see the butter side of his daily bread," etc. I'm not sure I love the strings working against the cheesy synth in the breakdown parts, but it definitely takes them into unexplored territory and it's cool to hear them trying new things. The instrumental build-up to "scratched out a doggerel verse or 2" is pretty rad. I'm looking forward to the live full-band versions, potentially more guitar-heavy?

Bike lane. I was sad to see JCs bike lane thread go away because I think there’s room for that kind of discussion here, but anyway. Musically this thing is a piece of fuzzy greatness. Lyrically, for me, I'll appreciate it as an anti-armed-state/police-brutality song. He could've used Jamar Clark or Michael Brown or any number of names in the song, that's the point to me. He could've expanded on the "Another beautiful bike lane" sections lyrically, but I love it like this: A simple, stark contrast in the daily concerns of different American classes.

Middle America. Enough's been said about this one, I'll just add that I like it even more in context. In between Bike Lane and Rattler, two crazy ass songs.

Rattler. Jake is so good for this band, this thing is all over the place and he holds it all together.

Shiggy. Like middle America, it’s more of a standout now that I’ve heard how it fits into the meaty middle of the album. I like it as the start of side B with a break between, but it also works great flowing directly from Rattler. The bass in the bridge is just explosive and clippy and fat. The guitar solos sound huge on vinyl with decent headphones.

Kite. Wow, the acoustic intro! "Over and done with intellectual wolves like that." Damn. Then the drums and the synthy goodness and all of a sudden we're in funky groove. No deposit, no return. "why you gotta ask? why don't you just know!?!"

Brethren
Another off-kilter beat with dry drums and fat bass. Kind of sounds like a Mac DeMarco song at moments. One of the most interesting tunes on the record for me. The strings were...??? I dunno, I just don't crave strings I guess. "You will see I am correct, now notice me!"

Refute
After consideration this almost seems like it should’ve been the basis for an EP or something. It’s strange in the context of this record. But lyrically some of my favorite lines in years. It's not that i dislike the song either. It's just a weird fit.

Difficulties / Let Them Eat Vowels
Whoooooaaaaa dudes. Whoa nelly. I am trying to figure out the decision to list these as one track? Difficulties is an epic little ditty at 3 minutes and change. I could see this jammed out really long and used as a closer. LTEV is fun but the vocal processing got to be a bit much and for me detracted from the lyrics. And it kind of just feels like an add-on, with the fade in and fade out.

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

I love love love it. Love it!

But one bummer...gosh I am so squeezed for time right now with work and my kid's graduation weekend that all I got was one listen late last night and a quarter of a listen while getting ready this morning (multi tasking and not just getting to listen) so I don't even really get to sit down with it until Sunday night!

But initial take is it's new, it's different..but not...but is...and I love what I hear. Can't wait for more time to drink it in and digest. Congrats to SM & Co. — he (they) should be proud and happy and confident and joyful! Really nice work/art! Really nice!

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

kate h wrote:

Congrats to SM & Co. — he (they) should be proud and happy and confident and joyful! Really nice work/art! Really nice!

I'll second that!

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

Also in case it was ever in question, the Jicks are still my favorite band. This gets re-cemented every time they make a record.

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

These are pretty initial thoughts. Four full listens down. I feel like my impressions are quite a bit different than some of the other Jixboardsters.

1. Cast Off

Since people were dragging Black Book so hard in the other thread, I am compelled to say that Cast Off is already one of my favorite Malkmus openers ever. It's hard to beat Summer Babe and Silence Kit from the Pavement era, and I think SM has generally been great at album openers for the Jicks, but this really might edge out all Jicks openers for me. I love the mellow vs. swelling guitar shreds contrast of this song, it is perfect.

2. Future Suite

I love this track too. I think it sets the tone of the album in the sense that it is a very tight song, with a clean guitar tone, a classic vocal line, and a just-this-side-of-mellow vibe.

3. Solid Silk

Alright, I'm sorry for this take in advance, because people seem to be loving this song and choosing it as the highlight of the album. And I love this song. I think it is great! But I have to admit... the rest of this record -- even Difficulties/LTEV as a 7+ minute track -- has a very tight and consistent feel to it, maybe the most so of any Malkmus record since Brighten the Corners. And this song, while great, is very loose and wandering, and has a real airy, spacial tone.

Everyone's a critic, so screw me. But I do think I'd love it if this song were still on the album, but moved after Rattler or Shiggy. I think it'd sound cool as hell coming out of the rippage of Shiggy into this track, following into Kite, which wanders in its own right, but even in its length, Kite has more focus with the punctuated guitar riffage between the verses.

I feel like you could swap Solid Silk with any Side B track from Mirror Traffic and it would be absolutely perfect.

4. Bike Lane

I heavily dig Malkmus taking on the topic here. It's a good treat when he steps out with some more "obvious" lyrics with a clearer meaning. The guitar rock is strong. I think this will be one of those songs that shines as a live ripper. This is similar how I feel to about Chartjunk. It's a good song that fits the record, but isn't one of my absolutely highlights on the record. But when they play it live, it jogs along and is more fun than some of the other songs on the album that I otherwise prefer.

5. Middle America

We've kinda hit this one since it came out first. Beautiful lyrics on an interesting topic that I think can be interpreted a couple different ways. I find it very interesting that Matador wanted to lead with this, while the Jicks wanted it a B-side. It's impossible to say without hearing what would've replaced it, but I'm at least inclined to think that now that I've got the full record in front of me, there's five or six songs on here I definitely prefer. But all these songs are good.

6. Rattler

Spaced! I actually like the fucking with auto-tune... I mean, why not? I really like the riffage between verses and the thick guitar tone. Is that an octave pedal? Or a delay pedal? Or overdubs? Or Mike and Steve playing live over each other? This song feels like it could've belonged on Side B of Jagbags, with Indie Street and Surreal Teenagers.

7. Shiggy

I have to say I don't get the article that said this was the most like a Pavement song. I guess maybe there's an Unfair vibe. Whatever the case is, I really like this song. I think this is another one that will especially shine live.

8. Kite

I fucking dig this one! I think for all the same reasons I like Cast Off so much. I love the mellow, clean, spacey verses, and the way they get exclamation points thrown on them by that descending riff. Is that little riff a Moog? This is also like two songs in one... they go into that refrain-to-verse around 3:30, and then that comes out around 4 minutes with Malk doing a most excellent Yo La Tengo guitar solo for... I dunno, about 45 seconds? Then it quiets and jogs for a bit, and he ramps back into the solo. That's actually what this song reminds me of in total. You could drop this song onto Painful and you'd wonder who they got to do guest vocals. Which is a compliment. Malkmus is one of the absolute best ever and aping good acts in the right way... that sort of tribute as opposed to regurgitation. Elvis Costello might be better at it than Malkmus, but that's about it.

9. Brethren

I have a really hard time talking about this song separate from Refute, because in the context of the full album, they go together so well. Totally different vibe than these two tracks, but the way Brethren and Refute pair up reminds me of how Asking Price and Stick Figures just feel inseparable.

This is one of Malk's best, straight vocal chops. He pans his own singing repeatedly, and sure, he's not Beyonce by any stretch. But I like his voice on this track a lot, the vocal line is beautiful.

10. Refute

See above. It just fits with Brethren in sequence. Brethren previews where Malk is going with the twangy noodling on his guitar, and where Jake is going to take the beat. The harmonies at the end of the verses are awesome. Part of me wishes they had kept this track in the bag tightly so that we could've unexpectedly heard Kim Gordon on our first listens and been like, "Holy shit!" But I can appreciate that Matador would've been crazy not to put this one out there for the buzz factor.

Even so, listening to the full record the first time, even though I knew it was coming, it still kinda felt like a nice surprise to hear Kim Gordon break into her verse.

11. Difficulties/LTEV

As I said earlier, even for a track over 7 minutes, this track still keeps in theme with the tight feeling of the record. There's something about the way this full record just *sounds* that keeps it snug from start to finish. Maybe that's a big tip of the cap to Funk and Lee for what they did for this album.

I think an obvious thing that helps keep a track like this feel tight is the fact that it really is a medley of two different songs. Difficulties feels like an expected album closer, and then it has that interlude into Vowels, and Vowels is super cool -- it just says to the listener, "Nah, we're gonna boogie to finish this out."

I'm curious if they play either half of this track live. This is the opposite of Shiggy or Bike Lane for me -- I have a feeling that it's a much better, tripped out, album listener than it is a live track. That said, who am I to doubt the Jicks. Certainly, the end of Vowels is ripe for Malk to drag a spliff and chug a few domestics and just riff out on up on the stage.

OVERALL

I don't know. At this point, it kinda feels absurd to try and rank this or grade it, or give it stars, or whatever. We're all on this board because we're unashamed fanatics. It'd be really tough for Malkmus to put out a record that wasn't immediately a favorite record of that year, no matter where I would personally rank it compared to the rest of his catalog.

I refuse to rank it with Pavement in the mix. In the Jicks catalog, I think this record is is super cohesive, doesn't have a single down track for me, but admittedly maybe lacks some of the utter "WOW" songs that are on a few of the other Jicks records.

As a put together album, I think this is a better record than Jagbags, Mirror Traffic, RET, or s/t. That being said, I don't think there are any songs on Sparkle that are better to my ears than Houston, Brain Gallop, or Out of Reaches. I think FTT and Pig Lib are very similarly well-constructed records that fit almost perfectly together from track one to the end. FTT has some high points within songs for me (the codas of Pencil Rot and It Kills), but there is no song on it I just immediately can say outranks Sparkle Hard. Water and a Seat and Animal Midnight are pretty much neck-and-neck for some of my favorites from Sparkle, as of right now (probably Cast Off and a tie between Kite/Refute).

I suppose I'm feeling like Pig Lib is the most comparable to this record. I'd probably put Mirror Traffic at the top of my list (that record has some "it came out at a certain time in my life" attachment to it), followed by Pig Lib, Sparkle, Jagbags, RET, FTT, and s/t. Keep in mind that the margins are razor thin, being a fanatic and all. You could easily shuffle this order and if Mirror Traffic were left on top I'd probably agree.

- Nathan

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

setya, we had a lot of the same thoughts. You wrote yours while I was writing mine. The one song we seem to really have diverged on is Refute. I'm surprised that it feels out of place to you, because (as I wrote) I felt like it had an inextricable link Brethren -- not lyrically at all, but I feel like Brethren musically teed up where Steve took the guitar sound and Jake took the beat on Refute.

Your review has me realizing that I spent a lot of time on my first four full listens zoning in on on the guitar and bass tones, the drum progressions, they keys and synth, and the tune and tone of the vocals... but the expense of that focus was that I zoned out on the actual lyrics. I'm definitely going to need to get another focused listen to put my ear towards the words because you called out some stuff there.

- Nathan

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

nguideau wrote:

setya, we had a lot of the same thoughts. You wrote yours while I was writing mine. The one song we seem to really have diverged on is Refute. I'm surprised that it feels out of place to you, because (as I wrote) I felt like it had an inextricable link Brethren -- not lyrically at all, but I feel like Brethren musically teed up where Steve took the guitar sound and Jake took the beat on Refute.

Your review has me realizing that I spent a lot of time on my first four full listens zoning in on on the guitar and bass tones, the drum progressions, they keys and synth, and the tune and tone of the vocals... but the expense of that focus was that I zoned out on the actual lyrics. I'm definitely going to need to get another focused listen to put my ear towards the words because you called out some stuff there.


I just read your review and it was crazy how many points of overlap. I had actually edited out a line or two about how, despite not being into the strings on brethren, i admit it's a nice segue into refute.

nguideau wrote:

You could drop this song onto Painful and you'd wonder who they got to do guest vocals. Which is a compliment. Malkmus is one of the absolute best ever and aping good acts in the right way... that sort of tribute as opposed to regurgitation. Elvis Costello might be better at it than Malkmus, but that's about it.

He says in Future Suite "I'm at peace with my mentors, I can't avoid their thrust"

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

The only thing better than getting to hear the album on repeat today is coming here and seeing these amazing reviews by fellow fanatics.  Fucking great stuff everyone!

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

Gave the album my first listen while driving around for work.  What a wild beast of a record this is.  I feel like it will keep getting better.  Always a nice surprise how different all the albums have been.  Also, I only knew two tracks going in so this is so fresh.  Kite is crazy as fuck.  Can't wait to listen to this with some brews in me.

I self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to help treat my extreme social anxiety.

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

I was initially a little underwhelmed, but after 5-6 listens I'm digging it a lot now.

The only "holy shit" track for me is LTEV, which I think is a unique spin on SM's musical/poetic brilliance -- the assonant lyrics (cheeky song title that), kind of sinister vox, hard but still laid back groove, neat little eddies of dissonance -- I love everything about it. To me, it is the "J Smoov" of this album -- hearing SM do something truly new for him, for the first time, to absolute perfection.

My only real complaint is that the drums are a little too buried in the mix for my tastes, but different strokes...

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

I've listened 3 times now.   it's a really good record but far too early for me to make any real judgments.  I definitely think all the songs are good with the only possible exception of "difficulties" at the moment kind of bored me,  but lots can change this early.  oh and refute isn't my favorite either.  kite and future suite seem to stand out for me,  and rattler and ltev need more time but might move ahead for me as well.  just too early to say anything with too much confidence yet!

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

yeah, hard to give an accurate review this early on BUT, hey I want to post a chime on this . . .

listened mostly to Kite — which despite reading about here for the past four years or so, I have had no idea what it sounded like, so this is cool to see the final product and liked this one the most immediately (besides Middle America) from the snippet on IG

the beginning of Kite kindaa reminds me of the Spector Ramones intro of "Danny Says" - really sharp, no bullshit, not phoned in acoustic, then it goes into the funk and reminds me of Bootsy's Rubber Band "I'd Rather Be With You" - then with the wah wah hook(?) and into what I associate with the classic Malkie pop splendora sonic prozac we know and love of say a Gardenia and Carrot Rope smile) which is Krux of the song, segueing into a wilder and maybe heavier(?) more explosive kinda Mirror Traffic guitarz --- ending with great super simple, but effective as AF, clever lyrics Why do you have to ask, why cant you just know, which goes real goood

also have to say I love the acting head shaking no singing on Insta, Love the Ruta Highhorse iconography and really like the Willamsburg Bridge Billboard treatment deff - probably not going to be my favorite SMJICKS album (probably mine is tie ST and PLIB), but if this gets the most critical praise of any and more buzz and score settling, I AM All For it ---

want to go back and re-examine the reviews on here too -

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

After a day and a few obsessive listens, particularly while high, it’s an 8/10. Still haven’t listened to the last one or Brethren properly yet, don’t know why.
Standouts for me are Future Suite, particularly the last bit with the drums and vocals together, Solid Silk and Kite. Not hugely digging Refute and I feel like I probably never will, and even though I love prog I’m still finding Rattler a bit of a challenge.

This is almost as good as my last signature.

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

A lot of people seem to be saying it’s a grower and I second that. I think Malky’s gonna have the last laugh.

This is almost as good as my last signature.

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

I listened to this again last night after some perfectly legal California activity, and I have to say, holy crap.  10/10.  This album is produced so deeply.  There is so much going on that whizzes past me on even a 'just careful enough' listen.  But when I'm really paying attention whole landscapes jump out of the songs.

The ending of Bike Lane, the driving synth in Rattler which just imprints on the brain and lets everything else blossom around and within it, the last third of solid silk which is incredibly epic, but goes inside itself with greater intensity rather than banging you over the head with it.

I dunno, this is a genius album.  Was also stoked that my boy loved it too.  He says it is his favorite so far.  So great to have someone else in the house to geek out about it with!

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

If you’re not Chuck Berry duck-walking the outro on Shiggy and ripping your shirt open when he kicks it up an octave so that the gods of rock purity have easier access to reach into your chest and dust the crusties off of your heart thereby making it easier for you to let in all the joy and perfection that is Kite, what are you even doing?

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

This album makes my balls sweat.

I self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to help treat my extreme social anxiety.

23 (edited by Jesus Christ 2018-05-21 03:56:29)

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

it's cool that,  unlike so many others,  sm's voice is pretty much unchanged since his youth.

I think this is a great record.  the new sounds and "experimentations" are fun and fresh

my only constructive criticism is my selfish interests.   I like more raw bones guitar bass and drums. more guitar solos. the guitar tones he's used lately sound too factory polished to me.  coloring too within the lines on the guitar. 

guess I'm SOL for the next record (electronic)

edit: several more listens over the weekend.  still a while before I'd be able to rank it among the jicks discog.  it's a good record but honestly not sticking a whole lot at this point.

there's no brain gallop, there's no tigers, lariat, and there damn sure ain't no church on white!

but, right now, it feels like a comfortable record for the jicks in 2018 i guess.  something tells me his passion for writing rock songs has waned, as hinted by his excitement about the electronic record

it's all cool in the end.

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

JackStark211 wrote:

This album makes my balls sweat.

The only review I've truly been waiting for. Worth it.

Jesus Christ wrote:

it's cool that,  unlike so many others,  sm's voice is pretty much unchanged since his youth.

I think this is a great record.  the new sounds and "experimentations" are fun and fresh

my only constructive criticism is my selfish interests.   I like more raw bones guitar bass and drums. more guitar solos. the guitar tones he's used lately sound too factory polished to me.  coloring too within the lines on the guitar. 

guess I'm SOL for the next record (electronic)

edit: several more listens over the weekend.  still a while before I'd be able to rank it among the jicks discog.  it's a good record but honestly not sticking a whole lot at this point.

there's no brain gallop, there's no tigers, lariat, and there damn sure ain't no church on white!

but, right now, it feels like a comfortable record for the jicks in 2018 i guess.  something tells me his passion for writing rock songs has waned, as hinted by his excitement about the electronic record

it's all cool in the end.

I hope it grows on you like people are predicting. For me the first 8 tracks are such a soild run. I'm still on the fence on Brethren/Refute.

I'll say I agree with you some on the guitar tones. From the studio pics it looked like they were using Funk's Benson collection a lot but who knows?

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

Jesus Christ wrote:

my only constructive criticism is my selfish interests.   I like more raw bones guitar bass and drums. more guitar solos. the guitar tones he's used lately sound too factory polished to me.  coloring too within the lines on the guitar. 

guess I'm SOL for the next record (electronic)

edit: several more listens over the weekend.  still a while before I'd be able to rank it among the jicks discog.  it's a good record but honestly not sticking a whole lot at this point.

there's no brain gallop, there's no tigers, lariat, and there damn sure ain't no church on white!

but, right now, it feels like a comfortable record for the jicks in 2018 i guess.  something tells me his passion for writing rock songs has waned, as hinted by his excitement about the electronic record

it's all cool in the end.

There is a part of me in this camp too, or was before this really sank its teeth into me.  I am over enamored of 10 minute Jammy Guitar God songs.  Luckily there is a deep back catalog of those.  I do hope we get a return to that corner of his brain at some point, although it does seem rather distant at thiis point.

But, I' say, in terms of his passion for writing Rock Songs, I disagree a bit.  I think Bike Lane and Shiggy are fucking rippers!  They are tighter and more structured than his past efforts, but I really appreciate that on this record.  It seems like he is stretching his wings in a different way.

But I feel you, all the same.