Stephen Malkmus is arguably the alpha male of indie rock. He formed the seminal lo-fi indie band Pavement with some of his Northern California buddies in 1989. Their demo recordings bounced around a few years before they were picked up by Matador to record their first official release. Slanted and Enchanted was released in 1992, and while sales weren't exactly brisk, the music was hugely influential on a new generation of rock musicians. In 2005 Spin magazine name Slanted and Enchanted #4 in its list of top 100 albums of the last 20 years, while Rolling Stone ranked its #134 of the top 500 greatest albums of all time. Even after its deluxe reissue in 2002, the album has only sold around 150,000 copies (2003 estimate from Rolling Stone). Compare that with another influential album that came out in the early 90s, Nevermind, which sold 7.6 millions copies (2003 numbers, probably up to 9 million by now).
Pavement's next album, 1994's Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, nearly got them to the mainstream with their minor radio hit "Cut Your Hair." Although this album contained a lot more pop-sounding songs than its predecessor, it still sold poorly. After three more full length releases, the band spit up in 1999.
Since then Malkmus has gone on to record four solo albums, although all four of these "solo" releases have been backed the Malkmus's band, The Jicks. The solo releases have all been generally well received, and have continued and grown on Pavement's style of literate but sometimes goofy lyrics, jangly guitar solos, and rock/pop sensibilities. In 2008 Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks released Real Emotional Trash, which, in addition to having some great pop licks, is also kind of trippy and weird (in a good way) with lots of guitar and a bit of a jam-band vibe. It is currently in my rotation as the soundtrack to my summer.
Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks are playing at the Phoenix in Toronto on Wed., July 16, with current indie darlings, Fleet Foxes, supporting.
BUY: Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (1994, reissued 2004)
Jenny And The Ess Dog.mp3
BUY: Stephen Malkmus (2001)
BUY:Real Emotional Trash (2008)