J.Mascis – Several Shades of Why (Sub Pop/Inertia)


Although he has made rock music with his main band Dinosaur Jr for the last three decades, J.Mascis has only just released his first solo album of original material, Several Shades of Why – an almost entirely acoustic and drum-free album. This is first and foremost Mascis’ confessional (for him, anyway!), weary and wise, with guests including indie idols such as Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene, Ben Bridwell from Band of Horses and Sophie Trudeau of Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

The songs usually begin with Mascis’ husky and raspy voice and his strumming and finger picking on his acoustic guitar. Obviously Mascis is not writing nostalgic music or simplifying his song writing at all, however he’s too good for that. Instead, I felt this was a very ‘adult album’ meaning that although he deals feelings of loneliness, relationships, and getting older, he always does so with an admirable fearlessness, comfort and good-natured awareness that could’ve only been gained with experiences such as his.

There are some songs such as “Very Nervous and Love”, “Make It Right” and “Can I” that I really love – they produce a beautiful ambience, with Mascis’ guitar chords punctuated by more powerful melodic wails and flurries that add remarkable force. And then there are songs where Mascis really gets into the guitar solos, particularly “Is It Done” and album closer “What Happened.” While these both are very tender solos that emphasise and accentuate the emotions conveyed, I would have really enjoyed these to go on for longer to heighten the emotional impact. While Mascis sounds very comfortable on this record, I couldn’t help but feel that these shorter solos were perhaps a result of him trying to break away from his usual image for the time being.

This is a great album, it is very soulful, comforting and most of all friendly. Mascis has written haunting and emotionally affecting lyrics and has set these against a backdrop of sparse and delicate folk tunes. It will no doubt satisfy long-term Dinosaur Jr followers but will probably see him gain a new legion of fans too (myself included!).

Wyatt Lawton-Masi