In the quarter century since he founded Dinosaur (Jr.), J Mascis has created some of the era’s signature songs, albums and styles. The laconically-based roar of his guitar, drums and vocals have driven a long string of bands—Deep Wound, Dinosaur Jr., Gobblehoof, Velvet Monkeys, the Fog, Witch, Sweet Apple—and he has guested on innumerable sessions. But Several Shades of Why, recorded at Amherst, Massachusetts’ Bisquiteen Studios, is J’s first solo studio record, and it is an album of incredible beauty, performed with a delicacy not always associated with his work.
Nearly all acoustic, Several Shades of Why was created with the help of a few friends. Notable amongst them are Kurt Vile, Sophie Trudeau (A Silver Mount Zion), Kurt Fedora (long-time collusionist), Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene), Ben Bridwell (Band of Horses), Pall Jenkins (Black Heart Procession), Matt Valentine (The Golden Road), and Suzanne Thorpe (Wounded Knees). Together in small mutable groupings, they conjure up classic sounds ranging from English-tinged folk to drifty, West Coast-style singer/songwriterism. But every track, every note even, bears that distinct Mascis watermark, both in the shape of the tunes and the glorious rasp of the vocals. Ten brilliant tunes that quietly grow and expand until they fill your brain with the purest pleasure.