Several Reasons of Why Not!
Approaching "Several Shades of Why" with both excitement and puzzlement, I wondered how a man such as J Mascis on his debut solo acoustic record was going to play it. After all this is a guitarist who can illicit both tears of melodic joy and melancholy within the same solo and who's frenetic playing is both visceral and exhilarating. However within this unplugged-style record lies a man who has written a bunch of beautifully damaged acoustic pop songs that embrace folk rock and has maybe delivered an album that fans of Dinosaur Jr have always had a yearning to hear.
Mascis is not travelling entirely alone on this record and has roped in some more than worthy contributors along the way. Band of Horses' Ben Bridewell provides soft harmonies on the delicate 'Not Enough' while Sophie Trudeau's violin adds to the reflective atmosphere on the title tracks pretty folk sparseness. Opener 'Listen to Me' has trademark cracked falsetto vocals and achingly beautiful lyrics "I can't wait to see you, pain is what we do".
"Several Shades of Why" does not suffer from the lack of Mascis electric bluster in which he alternatively channels his energy into some wonderfully crafted acoustic pop textures and as on "Is it Done" surreptitiously adds a little of the old solo magic when nobody is watching. The languorous 'Make It Right' includes Kurt Vile on guitar and floats by with pastoral flute adding to its hazy sunshine. 'Where Are You' is Dinosaur Jr exposed and vulnerable, lacking feedback but not soul and with nifty guitar riffs. 'Too Deep' is just J's voice and finger picking rhythm 'I'm the one you know' is as laid bare as its ever going to get. Concluding with 'What Happened', J Mascis first proper solo record leaves us in no doubt that yes, it was a brave move to leave a well worn track but it's a journey we all secretly hoped he'd take one day. A joyous simple pop record, sensitive and sweet, which smoulders and intrigues us.