Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

After about a dozen or so listens, I think I'm settling into Future Suite being my favorite track on the record. Kite is very close, and Difficulties/LTEV has stayed jammed in my brain. Rattler isn't quite clicking with me yet but otherwise all the songs are hitting me.

I still really need to focus on the lyrics. My hearing ain't so good so it's hard for me to pick up the words without really having a focused session of just listening to the record. Maybe we should start a lyrics thread... smile

I might be a little bit more of a fan of the guitar tone than you guys. Especially the solos, it sounds like SM for sure. But I will admit that the guitar tone in much of the verses and choruses is a new sound for him -- sounds like a Fender-inspired amp with a ton of headroom cranked just to the point of the faintest bit of breakup, and then -- and I'm not sure how this is achieved -- there is just this feeling of space and air between the notes that is there, and is really different than anything in almost the entire SM catalog before it.

- Nathan

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

this WILL change as the songs become more familiar.  But after a dozen listens this is my favorite to least favorite


1  kite
2  future suite
3  let them eat
4  solid silk
5  shiggy
6  middle america
7  cast off
8  bike lane
9  difficulties
10  brethren
11  refute
12  rattler


I think the live show would be pretty cool with Cast off played first in the set. My recommendation to the jicks:  have mike out first playing the cast off piano riff.   then have jo and jake ease in on backbeat and then finally sm out with the guitar after a brief slow burn.

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

Jesus Christ wrote:

this WILL change as the songs become more familiar.  But after a dozen listens this is my favorite to least favorite


1  kite
2  future suite
3  let them eat
4  solid silk
5  shiggy
6  middle america
7  cast off
8  bike lane
9  difficulties
10  brethren
11  refute
12  rattler


I think the live show would be pretty cool with Cast off played first in the set. My recommendation to the jicks:  have mike out first playing the cast off piano riff.   then have jo and jake ease in on backbeat and then finally sm out with the guitar after a brief slow burn.

This is probably pretty damn close to my order, too. In spite of my feeling like Solid Silk is an odd song in the flow of this album, it is definitely a great song and ranks near the top of any song-by-song ranking. My only big disagreement with your list is I'd just shift Cast Off up as high as #3, and no lower than #5. I really love it, it is a great opener for a record, one of the best SM has had.

- Nathan

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

Cast Off is unimpeachable but could still sit lower than slot 5. That's how great this album is.

Solid Silk is such a funny one for me. Every element comprising it is excellent, but feel like it's missing something. More of an outro? Nah. A more cathartic bridge? Maybe. When it transitions to those final doggerel verses, which are excellent, that's when I notice my aural confusion. I hope I come to realize it's perfect, but to me it kind of feels like a missed opportunity and my biggest nit to pick with this album.

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

Wow, D/LTEV is so erotic, a multi-course of it.

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

Shiggy
Kite
Future Suite
Difficulties
Middle America
Cast Off
Refute
Solid Silk
Rattler
Let Them Eat Vowels
Bike Lane
Brethren

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

7  listens in with 2 songs on heavy repeat.

1 - Cast Off (and gig opener)
2 - Bike Lane
3 - Future Suite
4 - Solid Silk
5 - Kite
6 - Shiggy
7/8/9 - Difficulties/Rattler/Refute... in interchangeable order
10 - Middle America
11 - Let them eat vowels
12 - Brethren

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

LTEV
Shiggy, sí
SS
Refute
Kite
Cast Off
FSuite
Difficult
BLane
Brethren
Rattle

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

Kite
Cast Off
Future Suite
Shiggy
Solid Silk
Difficulties
Bike Lane
Middle America
Rattler
Brethren
Refute
LTEV


I will say LTEV is the only song I dislike. The vocals just aren't my thing and it's hard to focus on anything else.

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

First listen or two just confused me.

Starting to dig it now. cast off is a good opener. Kite is a nice. difficulties is gorgeous. shiggy rocks.

** Do NOT Steal My Signatures Or Avatars, Bitches! **

36 (edited by kate h 2018-05-23 14:32:36)

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

I hate that there's a so-called admonition for Gen Xers not to gush.
This album is too short.
I love this record, all it does is twist and turn.

Today I had my first all on my back dance listening to this. Not the whole time, one song. But it's amazing what you can discover on another plane of existence.

As for the rest, I experience it through movement and with everyone out of the house today and work done I got to do it that way. Tune in all vessels.

Plus I could listen off of the computer/phone headphones on the stereo (CD) instead and there's so much more to it that way, though the phone headphones aren't awful given it's in a direct line to your brain.

Anyway, I'm finding a moving way in to the hints and hits in behind the mellow. There's no attack here, it comes up from within and more space unfolds than was there before. Stephen's crafted a really full world.

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

kate h wrote:

I hate that there's a so-called admonition for Gen Xers not to gush.
This album is too short.
I love this record, all it does is twist and turn.

Today I had my first all on my back dance listening to this. Not the whole time, one song. But it's amazing what you can discover on another plane of existence.

As for the rest, I experience it through movement and with everyone out of the house today and work done I got to do it that way. Tune in all vessels.

Plus I could listen off of the computer/phone headphones on the stereo (CD) instead and there's so much more to it that way, though the phone headphones aren't awful given it's in a direct line to your brain.

Anyway, I'm finding a moving way in to the hints and hits in behind the mellow. There's no attack here, it comes up from within and more space unfolds than was there before. Stephen's crafted a really full world.

Fuckin' hear, hear!!!!

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

Yeah, I believe SH has their most complicated arrangements, and deepest breadth of production (to take nothing from REMKO or any past Jick output!).  Man, Jicks are all hits! All the time.  Really great band.

*KEXP from 5/21/18 was bringing the Amoeba Records 2008 (RET) in-store heaviness ?!?  Me thinks...

Plus, com'on.  WHAT other band can bring the full album freshness and ingenuity on wax, AND rock it live with the thickness and capability to roll with complicated songs in full on live form, AND deepen the palate with solo 12 sting renditions that shine a-new altogether???  I am Gen X gushing, Kate, for sure...

I might start saying push off Pavy until 35yrs on, keep the JICKS a rollin for sure...

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

Stephen Street Praised Sparkle on Twitter - Dang
Despite 8.0 on Pitchfork, ya think this is the best reception for Jicks record so far?

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

totally kills, man, fucking totally great!

for me, it's perfect, beginning to end. and it seems to be speaking to me, right time right place. i can totally project my life, my (90s) nostalgia as the birth of my second daughter in my growing family draws near. joy, concern, confusion, fuck it dude...Sparkle Hard

and i love the production, i love the instrumentation. it feels so honest and true to form and present and appropriately current. dude is just so fucking breezy and makes cool effortless, makes cool effortlessly.

i'm just thrilled, i'm so satisfied. it's exactly what i didn't even know i needed it to be. Sparkle Hard just moved into a place right next door to Hot Sauce Committee Part two in the hood inside my head

i'm trying to stay level headed through the honeymoon period, but this album may vault straight to the top of the seven for me, just ahead of Pig Lib* and Mirror Traffic respectively.

as it goes, some of the tracks that seal the fuckin deal for me seem to be getting less traction around here
my standouts: Solid Silk, Rattler, Kite (THE highlight of the album, imo), Brethren, Difficulties>Let Them Eat Vowels

*the Japanese import Pig Lib is still my go to #1, but sans those 5 bonus tracks, Sparkle Hard is owning right now

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

I don't know if I really have what it takes to write a review of The Sparker but I'll try to say a few things that have come to mind, and how.

First it's a bit ironic that the album's called Sparkle Hard given that it is so, well, rather dark. But I don't think it's entirely misplaced, and I'll tell you why.

I remember when I was deep into my dance studies and they seriously overlapped with some rather...intense yoga studies and practices too. An important teacher to me, his name was Ketul, he asked if we knew what a guru was and the typical answers spring up..."someone you worship," and "someone you follow and are devoted to," "a spiritual teacher who shows you the light..." and Ketul said that yes, all these things may or may not be present but that really a guru was one who shows you the light and the dark.

So a guru can be a friend, an enemy, a brief encounter with a stranger — it's a more fluid concept and reality than simply or literally a teacher-pupil type deal, nor is it intimately wed to worship of the other, of the guru.

All this exposition is in service to a point.

I've been listening to Malkmus music since '95 I think. Something like that. And even though there's plenty of music and even direct musical canons of particular groups that ALSO do this for me (somewhat, or at times), I find that Steve's music does it the most, the most consistently, and the most...explosively in terms of, for lack of a better phrase, opening me up. But more than that, opening me up into a realm of an edge that's a controlled edge while it's also not so controlled, or at least not replicably controlled, in other words, different from time to time.

Maybe it's all the stuff people say when trying to describe his words...lyrics I guess, if you can call them that in every circumstance. They're so devoid of sap and predictability and certainty that they shape shift almost ad infinitum.

But then there's a complimentary feature, though clashing or at least contrasting, in the music, in whatever, melodies, sounds, layers, structures, avenues, and wormholes.

Hopefully I'm getting to my point about this particular record.

If I say I find this record dark, and even bitter in places, and jarring and abrupt at first glance (listen) in a good many of the musical changes/collapses/drags (sorry for the lack of specifics, I'd literally have to listen and go song-by-song to go there so all I can muster at this moment is an overall wash senstation at the moment), the odd miraculous gestalt of it all delivers a whole where the weight of one moment's assertion into bleak, or into repellence, or into dissolution, decay, or ragged jolt, resolves again into light and the light is an upward spiral of mind where, at least for me, in part maybe because I have a relationship to the music in dance where I want to discover what my body can tell me about this material....and it challenges me again and again and again to let go of expectations (of what melody or beat is coming next) or let go of associations in terms of lyrical matters because they'll shimmer into another iteration before my ears and within my tactile limbs.

Shimmer.

That's guru material at work from the seed wave of this spawn.

Last Friday, I spent a good deal of time dancing to it in a house with no other people there, no one to bug me or impede me or box me in and I don't know if it was just the absolute most perfect moment of day or what the cosmic signals were but my house faces East -West, not much Southern exposure, and a lot of windows on the North side. It's also terribly close to my neighbors on all sides, which actually means in the corners as well. I effectively have no yard and very little light and most of all no privacy — it's like a fishbowl and too often less metaphorical and more literal.

And yet this stunning thing happened when I was listening/dancing to the record. The western setting sun was reflecting off of my across the street neighbor's house and shining this unreal burst of sun into my house. Even on the north side a tremendous amount of gorgeous late afternoon dappled light seeped in. And somehow, some way, all my hanging framed art picked it all up and there were just multitudes of light in every direction. A flood.

So I'm hearing dark and sometimes even angry or repudiating themes emit from aspects of the songs — just aspects, not totally — but then getting showered with this crazy unreal light I've never seen in our house before. Ever. Not once.

And the light upward spirals of the music lit fires of Fibonacci galaxies.

And you know, when I'm dancing, my mental focus is on What is real in a grounded physical sense? How can I be real? How can I be real in my movements and how I can know when/if something is inauthentic? Or how can I discover that dance isn't all about a certain set of movements but it is about any movements that speak truth in relation to whatever else they're in relation to — music, space, people, solitude, whatever?

I hunger for that in this lifetime.

And time and again Malkmus's songs on this record cut this line that shimmers, hovers between these places, and so dark is there, yes, but dark doesn't grow weighty like, I dunno, who is weighty? Is like Nick Drake or something? It doesn't grow crippled either. I mean, I don't know much about musi, but it doesn't/

There's weight to Malkmus's lyrics and music, substance abounds, and it can veer to skirting ponderous but always remains somehow on top of the undertow. And that top deck, it, reaches like a telescoping arm with a wide net that sweeps in a tide of counterbalancing form, but form that itself never gets too light and turns to fluff. There's no fluff.

It's like sound you can trust even though its dark is truly dark. It's dangerous in there. It takes a lot of trust.

But other songs, other music I dance to is easy to comprehend and the dancing comes with little effort and it's fun and satisfying but I don't learn anything new about it, or about me, or about life. Not really. Not in a flip you upside down sense. Not like a guru showing you the "light and the dark" where the shadow is unavoidable but not fatal; even, curiously, welcome.

There's some lyrics I hear in particular on "Future Suite" that you know, I have found don't comport with what's out there on like Genius Lyrics, so they're just what I hear or what I choose to hear and what I hear just points to a kind of godhead space. Like go there, go to the godhead space, reach the godhead space, take the godhead space, welcome, come on in, it's better than you expected.

Because I fully admit of the astral plane, of the suprasensible, of the malleability in the energetic nature of existence I'm convinced Malkmus is some kind of demigod. I don't mean that in like an "I feel worshipful to him" kind of way. No. More like just observing an incarnated phenomenon at work. He's tapped in to a kind of instinct that he's able to keep restrained from crafting while simultaneously working at the highest level of craft. And it's a place, it's a mind space, and it's palpable. It's not just music, it's incantation — and in the beginning was the word, man.

Surely other musicians have this and other artists too...I mean, it's what the best artists give us. We live in a time of rationality and the iron cage triumph of Capital and of half lives in the land of the hungry ghosts. I for one crave transcendence and am fully committed to absorbing that when it's out there to...well, to dance to and to shake up known form, creative destruction. Little bit of tough love. 

I've consciously made the time to dance to this record as much as possible since then and get the privacy to do so whenever possible. It's like a welcome downpour in a forever horizon of desert drought. I've even worked out some cool stuff for "Bike Lane." Wish I could dance like this at the shows because you know, live performance. But you really have to peel back into self space at shows and not alienate folks. It's good enough though, to get to have it at home because it is the hardest record of his ever to try to dance to. And that means there's a lot for me to savor, dark and light oscillations as far as the ear can hear.

Maybe sometime I'll write about the specific songs but I'd be hard pressed to do so any way other than talking about what I find in them dance wise — otherwise it's just faves and ranks and being in over my head on the music specifics. So that's my review. The Reader's Digest version is: The guru shows you the light and the dark.

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

It's good. I like it.

"It´s a fine line between clever and..eh.. stupid"

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

no one dances anymore, Kate — hopefully Groove Denied will be dancey

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

seneca wrote:

no one dances anymore, Kate — hopefully Groove Denied will be dancey

Aw, man!

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

I feel guilty for not chiming in earlier, like I should have contributed more to this album's internet sparkle (plus maybe the band likes hearing nice things about their music, and maybe they look sometimes, and what better place to look than a place where your hardcore fans are) but my thoughts haven't changed much from my first few listens (and there have been dozens since) of the album: I love it.

I love every Malkmus album, but I do think this one is in the top tier. I adore the guitar tone throughout: Future Suite and Kite provide some of the sweetest electric sounds I've ever heard. The words and voice are also awesome. Middle America, Solid Silk, Future Suite, Brethren, and Kite particularly delight me in this regard. (The couple second autotune or whatever breakdown in Brethren is a delight that someone needs to mention.)

I gather the band isn't particularly enthusiastic about Middle America, but the lyrics and vocal melody are enough to make it a classic for me. It's gorgeous and cutting, and one of those songs that feels like it's talking directly to me (which speaks poorly of me both because of what it's saying and because of the narcissism it indicates).

Seems like Future Suite is a song that should have indie rock internet all a-twitter. Lyrically it's a home run, and melodically it's fantastically infectious. Those guitar doodles near the end, the layered vocals, the almost acapella execution tree ending make me giddy.

Kite is another all-time classic, love the folk intro, love the vocal tone, love maneuvers on the omnibus, love the dueling guitars.

I singled out an instant in Brethren, but the whole song deserves more love. It's a hit! 

At one point I said something on here about how I'd like to hear some Malkmus that goes for a Grizzly Bear/Built to Spill mashup vibe, and Difficulties/Let Them Eat Vowels gives that to me. Love that motes in sunlight feel of Difficulties and the laser funk of Let Them Eat Vowels. I'm not saying Malkmus looks to this board for demo inspiration, but I am saying I'm clearly highly qualified to offer inspiration for demos.

This album is still a blast to listen to, and it's going to remain that way. I'm jazzed about seeing Sparkle Hard live.

Thank you, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, for making albums and touring. Please do it a bunch more times.

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

i can't stop listening to it - over and over and over since the day it came out. i am near certain it's the best jicks record or top three. actually i don't know. we have seven amazing records from SM&J but i am super high on love for this new one

top favorites: future suite, solid silk, brethren, shiggy

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

jickjoosment wrote:

i can't stop listening to it - over and over and over since the day it came out. i am near certain it's the best jicks record or top three. actually i don't know. we have seven amazing records from SM&J but i am super high on love for this new one

top favorites: future suite, solid silk, brethren, shiggy

Same here!
I think my top favorites are Kite, Cast Off, Solid Silk, Future Suite. Hearing Difficulties live has made it my new favorite.

48 (edited by perfectdepth 2018-06-30 16:53:33)

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

I too have listened to it almost non-stop since it came out. I keep wanting to write a full thing but feel i can't really do it justice.

I dont say lightly that I think it's clearly the best Jicks record. But just as important I think is the post-Face the Truth run, which to me are the best Jicks records and just make me so happy that these artists I love are still clicking and putting things out for us to love.

Kite and Difficulties/LTEV are top 5 Jicks songs and Future Suite, Shiggy, Solid Silk, I'm not really sure when to stop. Thankful to have this experience of loving this music.

Re: Our reviews of Sparkle Hard

Future Suite is one if my fave of all time. Helps that my 5 yr old sings it constantly (with his own spin on the lyrics -- "everybody knows that he's coming up the future suite").

- Nathan