Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, "Wig Out at Jagbag" (Matador)
On his sixth Jicks album, Malkmus gets backhandedly blunt with "Rumble at the Rainbo," a sardonic look at a band's reunion tour like the one he did in 2010 with his former band Pavement, which was revered by college radio in the 1990s. "We are returning, returning to our roots/No new material — just cowboy boots," he sings, then vows, "No one here has changed and no one ever will."
Malkmus, 47, is well aware of change and unabashed about being a grown-up. Yet he has brought a lighter touch to each Jicks album.
He and the band look back to early, labyrinthine Pink Floyd and the revved-up strumming of the Who in "Surreal Teenagers," and they put a Grateful Dead-ish riff into "Cinnamon and Lesbians." Hefty grunge guitars show up in "Shibboleth," which ponders religion, and "Scattegories," about party games run amok. There's warped country-rock in "Lariat" and a glimmer of soul ballad in "J Smoov." Malkmus has written enigmas that are open to exegesis, but they also just roll on by with a whoop and a grin.
JON PARELES, New York Times
Lil B, "05 [bleep] Em" (datpiff.com)
David Bowie may have started 2013's most worthwhile album trend — no massive pre-release buildup — with Beyoncé following in hot, top-selling pursuit, but Lil B has topped them with his own massive F-bomb. On Christmas Eve, sans any warning, the controversial — remember 2011's "I'm Gay (I'm Happy)"? — Twitter-savvy rapper/ producer dropped a mixtape of 101 new tracks for free.
No hype could prepare you for almost six hours of music, let alone Lil B's spaced-out atmospherics and cutting, sung-spoken flow, with lyrics often critical of hip-hop and its violent subject matter. The eerily operatic "Praying 4 a Brick," the airily soulful "Rob the Jeweler" and the loopy "Cocaine Option" allow Lil B to sound off in menacing, echo-heavy manner. But "I Own Swag" and "Bloggers Anthem" are sillier. Then again, you're never certain whether Lil B is serious or sarcastic. That's part of the intrigue. You're unsure what he's griping about during "Bar Mitzvah," but its fluid bass and celebratory strings are worth sitting through 100 other songs to get to.
A.D. Amorosi, Philadelphia Inquirer