One of America’s most magnificent warblers has tripped me up a little. Best known for gems like “Tarpit” and “Severed Lips,” excessive feedback and distortion, Mascis has released what can only be described as a folk record in Several Shades of Why (Sub Pop). With nary a drum in earshot (tambourine is the only percussion), plucky compositions with poignant, discernable lyrics abound.
In his first true solo release, signature raspy vocals give way to string-dappled tunes that fade slowly out and into the next, delicately. There is a head-nodding element to some of the tracks, particularly “Is It Done” and “Can I” – though they are best accompanied by a slow beer while sitting in a rocker rather than, say, a heavy belly full of Ouzo (read: Dinosaur-style).
There is a melancholic and mature elegance present throughout the entirety of the record. “Make It Right” has just enough distorted sounds to satisfy an old-school fan, though the beauty of short piano runs and flute make this track the standout for sure. The silver-haired noisemaker hasn’t stumbled in his softness; in fact he’ll probably gain more than a handful of new, young listeners. Here’s to hoping.
J. Mascis – “Is It Done” [MP3]
J. Mascis – “Not Enough” [MP3]
Several Shades of Why is out now on Sub Pop.