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)

Quick Review (LP): Forgiveness Rock Record by Broken Social Scene

forgivenessrockrecordBroken Social Scene
Forgiveness Rock Record
Arts & Crafts; 2010

My Rating: B-

Best Tracks: “World Sick”, “All to All”, “Meet Me In The Basement”

For starters, “World Sick” is great. Unfortunately, though, I’m not so sure about the rest of these tracks. Truth be told, it’s amazing how bored they sound on the majority of this record. Cool will only take you so far; there has to be some creative intensity below the surface. Aside from the opener, “All to All” shows promise (though at best it’s merely this album’s “Anthems for a 17-Year Old Girl”), and there are decent moments in most of the rest of these tracks. But this is a band that, for all of its talent and experimental vision, shouldn’t be making records that sound like knock-offs of their previous efforts. This one only confirms that, since You Forgot It In People, they have been on a downward slide.

Metacritic reviews
Pitchfork review