Brighten the Corners, released in 1997 on Matador Records, was the fourth album by Pavement. Their previous release had been the sprawling genre-fest of Wowee Zowee, but Corners was shorter and more focused. If anything it sounded like a grown-up version of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain from just three years earlier, although it wasn't entirely free of the irony and unhinged yelling that had previously found their into way Pavement's music.

Tracklisting: (total run-time 46:17 minutes)

  1. Stereo (3:08) - Ultra-ironic but inescapably catchy indie-rock. Stephen Malkmus' wise-guy lyrics and off-key singing were never more Nineties. ("What about the voice of Geddy Lee / How did it get so high? / I wonder if he speaks like an ordinary guy.") Released as a single, reaching #48 in the UK.
  2. Shady Lane (3:51) - The most accesible track on the album, a surprisingly melodic song that was also released as a single and reached #40 in the UK charts. The line "Oh my god / Oh your god / Oh his god / Oh her god / It's everybody's god" is surprisingly straightforward for Pavement.
  3. Transport Is Arranged (aka Mercy Killa Comma) (3:52) - Pavement's own (largely instrumental) take on the quiet/loud dynamic.
  4. Date w/IKEA (2:39) - gorgeous, fractured folk-rock from Scott Kannberg (now with Preston School of Industry). Loads of distortion and a shimmering solo.
  5. Old to Begin (3:22) - more off-key vocals, improbable lyrics and bursts of guitar noise.
  6. Type Slowly (5:20) - qausi-ballad with chiming guitars balanced by perhaps the most off-key vocals Malkmus ever recorded.
  7. Embassy Row (3:51) - shouting, driving noise-pop in the vein of Wowee Zowee's "Serpentine Pad", with such moving lyrics as "I needed a visa / I bought off a geezer."
  8. Blue Hawaiian (3:34) - low-key indie/jazz with lyrics half-heartedly addressing the topic of the Hawaiian language, e.g. "Aloha means hello, and also goodbye / It's in how you inflect."
  9. We Are Underused (4:12) - about as close to a pop song as the album gets.
  10. Passat Dream (3:51) - Another Scott Kannberg song, even less tunefully sung than Malkmus but surprisingly catchy and affecting.
  11. Starlings in the Slipstream (3:08) - "I put a spycam in a sorority" confesses Malkmus on this somewhat forgettable track.
  12. Infinite Spark (aka Fin) (5:25) - fantastically downbeat closer that ends with a bleak two-minute guitar solo. Proves that Pavement were capable of writing serious songs.
Fascinating trivia: the album was produced by Mitch Easter, the guy who also produced R.E.M.'s first album, Murmur.

Brighten the Corners reached #27 in the UK album charts, slightly worse than the previous two albums (Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain and Wowee Zowee) and the follow-up, Terror Twilight. In America it got to #70, which was actually their best US chart position for any record, album or single.

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