Quick Review (LP): Several Shades of Why by J. Mascis


J. Mascis
Several Shades of Why
Sub Pop; 2011

My Rating: B (66/100)

Best Tracks: "Listen to Me", "Several Shades of Why", "Is It Done"

For a guy with a frog-fart of a voice, J. Mascis sure writes pretty tunes, and doesn’t sound half-bad singing along with them. For his reputation as an indie rock grinder, he makes some really great chamber pop, which we’ve known since Where You Been? at least.

NOTES:

– I dig this record, but I did find myself wondering at one point whether some of these tracks were acoustic re-workings of previously released Dinosaur, Jr. tracks. Case in point: "Can I."
– The title track is a real standout. Very nice string accompaniment.
– OK, what is the deal with Mascis song-naming? I’m pretty sure that at least 90% of the songs he has written are titled purely with pronouns, common verbs, and prepositions. His greatest hits will undoubtedly be titled "Liked These."
– I really love laid-back, acoustic pop records like this. In my mind, it’s a sign of a truly great songwriter when they can effortlessly switch from full-form rock band mode to catchy, hyper-melodic folk pop.
– Mascis’ songs have always been more about the fabulous guitar arrangement than the voice or the lyrics, but his croak has the same hear-2-believe quality as Dylan’s.
– Some cool guests here: Kurt Vile (I’m name-dropping here), Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene), and Ben Bridwell (Band of Horses).
Pitchfork puts the record in perspective for me: “The specter of loneliness and aging is a through-line here, too, brilliantly visualized by artist Marq Spusta’s gorgeous cover, which shows a pair of fuzzy, unmistakably J-like creatures– one big, one tiny– using a sea monster’s back for an island. (Mascis had a son in 2007.) Though dour, Mascis’ sleeve avatar is also kind of cute. Several Shades of Why gives us that softer, gentler J Mascis. But it’s not kids’ stuff– these are lullabies for adults, offered up with a compassion that doesn’t come easy.

ATTRIBUTES:
Cohesion (4/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Consistency (4.5/5)
Concept (4/5)
Songs (4/5)

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