These don’t go to 11…
It’s hard to believe that—after 25 years of squalling guitar rock with Dinosaur Jr and a slew of other bands (from The Fog to Witch)—J Mascis is just now releasing his first proper solo album, and that it’s a laid-back acoustic record. But, after listening to Several Shades of Why, it’s even harder to believe he hasn’t explored this format more often. His maximum rock ’n’ roll six-string shredding morphs exceptionally well into this album’s earthy, forlorn picking, and J’s lazy, just-rolled-outta-bed croon—set against the stripped-bare backdrop of acoustic guitars and cellos and jingling tambourines—is pure magic.
With the vocals more out front than ever before, Several Shades showcases a wounded, fragile weariness that I’d never realized until now was such a huge part of Dinosaur Jr’s ragged, heart-wrenching appeal. Several guest musicians drop in to lend a hand on the album (including Kurt Vile, Band of Horses’ Ben Bridwell and Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew), but no one comes close to stealing the spotlight from the veteran Mascis on this affecting collection of solitary ballads.