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leak of the week

Leaked: New Album Finds Steve Malkmus Getting Progressively Better

Courtesy of Matador Records

Steve Malkmus & Jicks, Real Emotional Trash

Official release date: March 4

We think: As the first notable leaked album of the New Year, Trash is a happy surprise for a few reasons, not the least of which is that it's the only official proof we have so far that the troubled record business will indeed be releasing new music in 2008. Like all great recent Malkmus songs, the ones here sound like they were written between bong hits during the UFO ride to the recording studio; his third consecutive hippie album (after 2003's Pig Lib and 2005's excellent Face the Truth) follows the ex–Pavement leader even further down the prog hole, with almost every track devolving into an extended jam session, sometimes with a keyboard solo. Even so, there are hooks — "Real Emotional Trash" sounds like Steely Dan covering Pavement's "Type Slowly," and "We Can't Help You," hiding on the album between a pair of King Crimson tributes, is organ-enhanced slack-pop, as catchy and accessible as anything he's ever made (as a solo artist, anyway). On a first listen, we like it at least as much as Face the Truth.