Yet, on his latest solo album, this year's The Heat, Malin does himself no favors in the image department; he's a little easier to take this time around, but still. Consider this line from "Swinging Man," a peppy rocker with a cool electric-piano hook: "I am a swinging man perpetually on the lam/Free as a bird or the girls in Amsterdam."
Um, okay. Malin's problem is one shared by his pal and sideman Ryan Adams: In creating a world of cigarette-throated destitution as detailed and full-bodied as his, Malin traps us inside one of the dank, airless watering holes he evidently spends so much time in. Listening to him remains uncomfortably like listening to a barstool-Barney that you can't escape without a great excuse.