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Review: The Jayhawks, 'Paging Mr. Proust'

The Jayhawks' new album, <em>Paging Mr. Proust</em>, comes out April 29.
Heidi Ehalt
Courtesy of the artist
The Jayhawks' new album, Paging Mr. Proust, comes out April 29.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

The Jayhawks, <em>Paging Mr. Proust</em>
/ Courtesy of the artist
Courtesy of the artist
The Jayhawks, Paging Mr. Proust

In the early '90s, The Jayhawks looked like the next Uncle Tupelo, complete with Midwestern roots, potential for outsize influence, and a lineup rife with infighting and creative differences. But where Uncle Tupelo's inevitable implosion produced two successful offshoots (Wilco and Son Volt), The Jayhawks' Gary Louris, Mark Olson and Tim O'Reagan never fully took off as solo artists, while the band's lineup has shifted in unpredictable ways that have made it tricky to regain lost momentum.

In recent years, The Jayhawks have embarked on several hiatuses and reunions, released a career retrospective, and seen Olson rejoin the band and then leave again. And yet the band's newest music seamlessly re-creates The Jayhawks' honeyed, harmony-rich roots-pop sound while still expanding it in subtle, appealing ways.

The new Paging Mr. Proust, produced by Tucker Martine and R.E.M.'s Peter Buck, bursts off the blocks with an irresistible ringer in "Quiet Corners & Empty Spaces," which radiates with the rich, sweet jangle of The Jayhawks' early favorites. But the peaks don't stop there, as the band sprinkles highlights throughout Paging Mr. Proust, most notably the dreamy sway of "Lovers Of The Sun," the amiable chug of "Leaving The Monsters Behind," and the kicky gallop of "The Dust Of Long-Dead Stars." Coming from a band that last year entered its fourth decade, these rich, charming songs are a testament to songwriting voices that have never seemed worn down by time and turmoil.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)