Due out through Matador Records, Sparkle Hard follows 2014’s Wig Out at Jagbags. Writing sessions began in 2015. When it came time to actually record in May 2017, they holed themselves up at Halfling, a Portland studio managed by The Decemberists multi-instrumentalist Chris Funk, who also served as producer.
According to Malkmus, he and the band initially struggled to find a balance between retaining their indie rock legacy and renewing their sound. Sparkle Hard is that common ground — there are unmistakble Jicks moments amidst others that are fresh to the group’s catalog. “If 2014’s Wig Out At Jag Bags balanced the lengthy prog workouts of Pig Lib with Mirror Traffic’s sparky pop moments,” a press release adds, “then Sparkle Hard bears less obvious direct relation to what’s come before.”
Among the 11 tracks on the record, there’s a song that references Freddie Gray and another dubbed a “metal sci-fi tune.” There’s also Auto-Tune, an acoustic folk intro, and guest vocals from Kim Gordon.