Tuesday, March 15, 2011

J. Mascis - "Several Shades Of Why"

UPDATE: Congrats to Greg, the winner of the J. Mascis CD! Thanks!

If you were like me, you probably also wished that Dinosaur Jr. would’ve gotten the MTV Unplugged treatment just like Nirvana and so many other great and influential bands of the 90’s. Well the wait is over because today Sub Pop is releasing Several Shades of Why, J. Mascis’s first studio solo album and it is as great as you would expect. The album is mostly acoustic with no drums, so gone is the legendary guitar fuzz but what remains is a focus on his raspy drawl and his excellent songwriting stripped down to its most simplistic and elegant form.

“Listen To Me” opens the album with steady strumming and an affecting, aching vocal with guest guitars from protégé Kurt Vile. On the title track, “Several Shades of Why”, the guitar and violin by Sophie Trudeau from A Silver Mount Zion intertwine beautifully, conjuring thoughts of Nick Drake. The first single “Not Enough” stands out with guest vocals from Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses, Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene and Kurt Vile, who turn the song into a hand-holding harmonious sing-along. The arrangement on “Very Nervous and Love” is a little more fleshed out with Pall Jenkins of Black Heart Procession providing vocals, piano, saw and optigan along with dobro by Kurt Vile, though the focus is situated on the surprisingly emotional vocals. The Country-fried swing of “Is It Done” also stands out with the clean, high registered vocals of Ben Bridwell that provides a pleasant contrast with those of J.’s but also contains a fuzzy, electric guitar solo for good measure. “Make It Right” has one foot in the Saloon with an expressive slide guitar and the other foot in the Café with a flute melody for an eclectic arrangement that just works. And “Where Are You” features electric guitar from frequent collaborator Kurt Fedora and more assistance from Ben, where “Too Deep” is just J. and his guitar as the only song without an outside contribution. Kevin Drew shows up again on the poignant and wistful “Can I” to play clarinet of all things. And finally “What Happened” closes out the album with longing melodies, melodic guitar soloing and more flute for a fine finish to an instant classic in the J. Mascis canon.

As much as each guest’s contributions add to the songs, there is no denying J. Mascis is a great and versatile songwriter and the stripped down Several Shades of Why is the proof, as if you needed any.

Download "Is It Done" here: http://assets3.subpop.com/assets/audio/8555.mp3

For more info click here: http://jmascis.com/ and http://www.subpop.com/


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