Face the Truth (Matador), Stephen Malkmus's third solo album, is as pleasurable--and perplexing--as its predecessors. All tossed-off novelty narratives and chattering guitars, Stephen Malkmus (2001), his first post-Pavement release, sounded too easy. The follow-up, Pig Lib (2003), sounded too hard--the guitars got tangled in proggy knots and the words were willfully opaque. But true believers expecting the new disc to be juuuust right will be spooning their way through a whole 'nother bowl of porridge. Malkmus still seems strangely absent as a vocalist, as if he's trying to prove that a singer-songwriter needn't have a persona--he may honestly believe, as he sang on his debut, that Yul Brynner's best role was the "robotic cowboy" in Westworld. And as a guitarist, he's still chasing arty intricacy, attempting to devise tunes as self-contained, difficult, and sui generis as the lo-fi scraps of genius that preceded Slanted & Enchanted. Luckily, the guy's got an expressive streak. Even at his most verbally abstract he sounds like he has something to say, and sometimes his tightly coiled compositions unroll gracefully into moments of uncommon beauty, as on "Freeze the Saints" with its seductive plea, "Help me languish here." Paik and the Changes open. Sat 6/11, 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $18, 18+.