Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks formed after Malkmus' previous band, Pavement, went on hiatus in 1999. Five albums later, Malkmus has evolved as much as he's returned to his roots: He's sometimes focused and refined, other times lithe and unpredictable. The Jicks' latest album, Mirror Traffic, was produced by Beck, whose deft touch serves to tighten Malkmus' notorious looseness.
Mirror Traffic is an enigmatic mix of catchy tunes and lyrical mischief. Malkmus' tautology comes in a relentless downpour of stream-of-consciousness storytelling, while his melodies remain darkly unpredictable. Malkmus is a wordsmith even in his interview on today's World Cafe; his metaphorical musings on the process of songwriting and recording entertain as well as mystify.