With Pavement's reunion in the bag, Stephen Malkmus and Beck Hansen put the finishing touches on Mirror Traffic, the fifth album by Malkmus and the Jicks. The release was recorded pre-Pavement reunion and marks the last studio appearance of Janet Weiss, who's moving on to Wild Flag with Carrie Brownstein. And although it's certainly a Jicks album, the Malkmus/Beck collaboration runs deep throughout Mirror Traffic

Mirror Traffic fits nicely into Malkmus' kitschy-yet-cool oeuvre. Although pretentiousness seeps through album opener "Tigers", it's still a great showcase for Malkmus' trademark humor and makes liberal use of Pavement-esque lyrical non-sequiturs that always sound a bit better backed by the Jicks. "Tigers'" twangy, spaced out guitars circa Beck's Mellow Gold and Malkmus' falsettos set the tone for the next fifty minutes of the record.

Late in the album, "Forever 28" manages to be gritty without compromising the cleanliness of the traditional Jicks sound. "I can see the mystery of you and me/ Will never quite add up" opens the track, teasing a long song when in reality it's the story of a buzzkiller. In true slacker-style the track weaves through pop catchiness and fuzzed-out guitar solos without missing a step.

In an album mixed between slower and speedier tracks -- see "Spazz" for punk rock Malkmus -- "Share the Red" is the standout ballad. The hook "Have you no tears/ Have you no heart/ You've got no idea what sets you apart" is a tight embrace with distant affection. Heartfelt and sexy, layered and haunting, clever and sentimental -- "Share the Red" is makeout music. It's the song hipsters will acoustically, fumble-through serenade many a date with from the couch. 

"Senators" and a handful of other tracks echo back to Malkmus' early days with Pavement, yet spotlight all the reasons why a new Pavement record is a pipe dream. Malkmus' songwriting has grown to a point where sarcasm and apathy simply isn't enough anymore. Teaming Malkmus with Beck might fulfill every indie rocker's wet dream a la 1996, but Mirror Traffic marks an exciting evolution for the Jicks sound.