January 6th, 2014 1:23pm

The Solitary Dragnet

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks “J Smoov”

Malkmus hasn’t written many songs like “J Smoov” in his career – “Motion Suggests Itself” and “Blue Arrangements” are at least in the ballpark, but don’t commit as fully to this sort of low key country-soul vibe with a full-on horn arrangement. The song reminds me of mid-’70s Al Green in particular, but this is Malkmus, so this performance is about as good it gets for him in terms of technical vocal prowess, and the structure and lyrics skew away from standard tropes even when it seems like he’s embracing them.

“J Smoov” has a loungey, relaxed feeling to it, but the instrumental parts feel very elliptical, like he’s just waiting something out or drifting off into a pensive daze. The lyrics seem flirtatious and romantic at first, but once you pay attention, it all takes a turn – he’s singing about a mutual attraction that both parties know can’t be acted upon, and when he thinks about consummating it, his language gets impatient and unsexy: “At this point darling, I must say / that the seeds unsown are gonna grow anyway / rent a room, get it over with / in a race to the inside of your face.” The line that really gets me is at the start of the refrain when he sings “you’re afraid of me,” if just because it raises the question of whether the other person was really pursuing him at all.

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