That's what most differentiates Stephen Malkmus from the stack of records he made with Pavement, the band of California grad-school slackers with whom Malkmus invented indie rock. Terror Twilight, the band's final studio album, saw Malkmus drifting, like his apparently beloved Ess-Dog, away from his chums and the buzzing racket they made, toward a mellowed, classic rocktinted brand of West Coast pop flavored by the zillion books and the million CCR tapes cluttering his bedroom floor. Free of the obligation of making nice with his buds, he's made good on that promise, jettisoning the lyrical obscurity and guitar distortion behind which he used to hide, instead penning lazy-bone ditties about England's colonial tendencies and indulging his burgeoning piano jones. Not that his scrawl is completely legible now: "Vague Space" promises to "erase mistakes of the forest lakes," and "Phantasies" boasts an alarmingly legit calypso hook. But throughout, Malkmus sounds like he has grown up and realized that sometimes a straight line goes further than you think. Wowee zowee.