With so many fans of his earlier works with Dinosaur Jr. the pressure was on J Mascis to deliver a memorable, poised and balanced album. With the majority of the album being acoustic, rather out of the ordinary to the screaming and blast beats I normally encounter on my speakers. He still doesn't fail to impress and relax me in equal measure with a single track on the 'Several Shades of Why' (Released on March 14th Via Sub Pop Records).
'Several Shades of Why' opens with the beautiful 'Listen To Me'. It's simple strum patterns and bouncy guitar chords instantly send anyone listening into a trance, although the majority of the other tracks have the same effect. The soft, crackling voice of J Mascis is instantly recognisable over the guitar, creating a balance that wouldn't look out of place in an easy listening or folk song.
The title track 'Several Shades of Why' adds a different dimension to the acoustic and vocals simplicity of the album by adding a well placed violin to back up the bouncy guitar; allowing space for listeners to drift into a deep state of relaxation, the odd happy sigh drifting out of my mouth backed that up. 'Not enough' brings the sound of the album into the lime light: an album recorded with all the joy lacking in some of the hectic recording schedules of modern bands. The tambourine makes my head bob and the toe tapping begins with the wandering hands of J Mascis on the guitar's fretboard.
Although most of the tracks are similar sounding; 'Very Nervous and Love' wouldn't look out of place in one of many American TV dramas such as One Tree Hill or 90210, it's duet verses and emotional vocals would definitely aid the mushy sad scene's in one of these shows.
Of course J Mascis and guitars go back a long way, so it isn't surprising when the acoustic guitar is dropped for a poignant, electric solo in 'Is It Done'. Then the balance of the album means J Mascis must contrast the guitar solo, with 'Where Are You' sounding nothing short of a Willie Nelson song I think he does that beautifully.
Then he takes the balance to the next level in 'Can I' by mixing electric and acoustic guitar to create a wonderful sound of J Mascis past and J Mascis present. 'What Happened' rounds off the album very well, creating the emotions felt of the travelled rock star; the loneliness, hectic travelling and extreme lifestyle using nothing but voice and guitar.
The guitar, at points, even sounds like the conscience of its player, sounding regretful. A voice of doubt? Perhaps, or maybe just reminiscent thoughts of the past. Either way it's beauty could make the toughest of metal heads fall in love with it.
The pressure was on J Mascis to create a balanced album, and he delivers a solo album that could bring the most stressed out of people to relaxation. Stories of regret, memories of the past, this album had everything you'd expect in an acoustic masterpiece.
J Mascis would be perfect for people who like to just kick off their shoes, put on a relaxing soundtrack and unwind. He delivers the smoothest vocals and beautifully poised guitar to extract the hippie from within every one.
Review by Shaun Ferris
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