J. Mascis - Several Shades of Why
Posted by Kuang on Wed, 16 Mar 2011.
I wouldn't have expected the gravelly voiced frontman of seminal alt rockers Dinosaur Jr. to release an acoustic album, but here we have 'Several Shades of Why' and it's a gem.
Even before the disc hits the player, the beautifully illustrated artwork draws your attention to a list of contributors that's promising to say the least; Ben Bridwell from Band of Horses, Pall Jenkins of The Black Heart Procession, Sophie Trudeau from Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene suggest that this is going to be special.
It is. J. Mascis has focused on an almost pastoral vibe - gentle, stripped down and mellow, centered around a single acoustic guitar with delicate and complementary overtones from the guest contributors. Mascis' vocals could have been accused of sounding vaguely disinterested in the past, but that's not the case here - his slow, emotive delivery adds a rough hewn strength to the bare bones of the songs. It wouldn't be a huge stretch to liken the vocals here to those of Mark Kozelek, and you'd do neither man a disservice by doing so. It feels as if Mascis has found the ability to stretch out and communicate, free from the remorseless distortion of his past.
The past isn't entirely gone though. Fringe elements of the grunge era bought a certain sensitivity to alt rock, and glimmers of that guarded emotional side are allowed to come to the fore. There are elements of that chilled, rough slacker vibe you'd get with early Lemonheads records, or ex Homestead labelmates The Pastels. Nothing is ever so tight that it becomes uptight, and that's just about perfect.
Mascis has carefully bundled up his past, taken the road less travelled, and emerged with one of the most mellow and absorbing albums of this year so far.