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J MASCIS

J Mascis

What Do We Do Now

    What Do We Do Now is the fifth solo studio LP recorded by J Mascis since 1996. This is obviously not a very aggressive release schedule, but when you figure in the live albums, guest spots, and records done with his various other bands (Dinosaur Jr., The Fog, Heavy Blanket, Witch, Sweet Apple, and so on), well, to paraphrase Lou Reed, “J's week beats your year.”

    What Do We Do Now began to come together during the waning days of the Pandemic. Utilizing his own Bisquiteen Studio, J started working on writing a series of tunes on acoustic with a different dynamic than the stuff he creates for Dino. “When I'm writing for the band,” he says, “I'm always trying to think of doing things Lou and Murph would fit into. For myself, I'm thinking more about what I can do with just an acoustic guitar, even for the leads. Of course, this time, I added full drums and electric leads, although the rhythm parts are still all acoustic. Usually, I try to do the solo stuff more simply so I can play it by myself, but I really wanted to add the drums. Once that started, everything else just fell into place. So it ended up sounding a lot more like a band record. I dunno why I did that exactly, but it's just what happened.”

    Two guest musicians are playing this time out; Western Mass local Ken Mauri (of the B52s) plays piano on several tracks. Since J himself has some experience with keys, when asked why he needed a hired gun, he says, “Ken is great, and he plays all the keys. I tried playing some keyboards on the first Fog album, but I'm really only comfortable playing the white notes, so it's kind of limiting. [laughs] Nowadays, I could just turn the pitch on a mini Mellotron to play different sounds, but black keys just seem hard. For whatever reason, I just like banging on the white ones. Seems like it's harder to figure out how to stretch your fingers around the other ones.”

    Mauri has no such qualms and plays all the keys very damn well. He sounds especially great on “I Can't Find You,” where he is Jack Nitzsche to J's Neil Young, creating one of the album's loveliest tunes. The other guest musician, Matthew “Doc” Dunn, is also prominent on this track. Dunn's steel guitar manages to both widen and soften the musical edges of the music, giving it a full classicist profile. Dunn is an Ontario-based polymath who J met through Matt Valentine. After J played on Doc's great 2022 Sub Pop single, “Your Feel,” he figured it was time for payback. Both Dunn and Mauri add beautifully to the songs here, helping to transform them from acoustic sketches into full-blown post-core power ballads.

    What Do We Do Now is the finest set of solo tunes J has yet penned, and the way they're presented is just about perfect. Asked if he would be touring to support the album, J says he'll be doing some weekend dates, but he probably won't be putting a band together. And I'm sure these songs will sound great solo and acoustic, but the arrangements on this album are truly great and put a cool, different spin on Mascis' instantly recognizable approach to making music.

    So, what do we do now? Not sure. But apparently, what J does is to make one of his most killer records ever. Hats off to him. -Byron Coley

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Barry says: Another gorgeous missive from Mascis, with his trademark melodies and swooning instrumentals perfectly floating beneath the calm drawling vocals of the man himself. It's always a more chilled offering, the solo album when compared to his DJR output but every bit the worthwhile counterpart. Lovely stuff.

    TRACK LISTING

    1. Can’t Believe We're Here
    2. What Do We Do Now
    3. Right Behind You
    4. You Don’t Understand Me
    5. I Can’t Find You
    6. Old Friends
    7. It's True
    8. Set Me Down
    9. Hangin Out
    10. End Is Gettin Shaky

    Near the end of Reagan's first term, the Western Massachusetts Hardcore scene coughed up an insanely shaped chunk called Dinosaur. Comprised of WMHC vets, the trio was a miasmic tornado of guitar noise, bad attitude and near-subliminal pop-based-shape-shifting. Through their existence, Dinosaur (amended to Dinosaur Jr. for legal reasons) defined a very specific, very aggressive set of oblique song-based responses to what was going on. Their one constant was the scalp-fryingly loud guitar and deeply buried vocals of J Mascis.

    A couple of years before they ended their reign, J cut a solo album called Martin + Me. Recorded live and acoustic, the record allowed the bones of J's songs to be totally visible for the first time. Fans were surprised to hear how melodically elegant these compositions were, even if J still seemed interested in swallowing some of the words that most folks would have sung. Since then, through the reformation of the original Dinosaur Jr lineup in 2005, J has recorded solo albums now and then. And those album, Sings + Chant for AMMA (2005), Several Shades of Why (2011) and Tied to a Star (2014) had all delivered incredible sets of songs presented with a minimum of bombast and a surfeit of cool. Like its predecessors, Elastic Days was recorded at J's own Bisquiteen studio. Mascis does almost all his own stunts, although Ken Miauri (who also appeared on Tied to a Star) plays keyboards and there are a few guest vocal spots. These include old mates Pall Jenkins (Black Heart Procession), and Mark Mulcahy (Miracle Legion, etc.), as well as the newly added voice of Zoë Randell (Luluc)  among others. But the show is mostly J's and J's alone. He laughs when I tell him I'm surprised by how melodic his vocals seem to have gotten. Asked if that was intentional, he says, “No. I took some singing lessons and do vocal warm-ups now, but that was mostly just to keep from blowing out my vocal cords when Dino started touring again. The biggest difference with this record might have to do with the drums. I'd just got a new drum set I was really excited about. I don't have too many drum outlets at the moment, so I played a lot more drums than I'd originally planned. I just kept playing. [laughs] I'd play the acoustic guitar parts then head right to the drums.”

    There is plenty of drumming on the dozen songs on Elastic Days. But for those expecting the hallucinatory overload of Dinosaur Jr's live attack, the gentleness of the approach here will draw easy comparisons to Neil Young's binary approach to working solo versus working with Crazy Horse. This is a lazy man's shorthand, but it still rings true. Elastic Days brims with great moments. Epic hooks that snare you in surprisingly subtle ways, guitar textures that slide against each other like old lovers, and structures that range from a neo-power-ballad (“Web So Dense”) to jazzily-canted West Coasty post-psych (“Give It Off”) to a track that subliminally recalls the keyboard approach of Scott Thurston-era Stooges (“Drop Me”). The album plays out with a combination of holism and variety that is certain to set many brains ablaze. J says he'll be taking this album on the road later in the year. He'll be playing by himself, but unlike other solo tours he says he'll be standing up this time. “I used to just sit down and build a little fort around myself -- amps, music stands, drinks stands, all that stuff. But I just realized it sounds better if the amps are higher up because I'm so used to playing with stacks. So I'll stand this time.” I ask if it's not pretty weird to stand alone on a big stage. “Yeah,” he says. “But it's weird sitting down too.” Ha. Good point. One needs to be elastic. In all things. - Byron Coley


    STAFF COMMENTS

    Barry says: One of the more tender outings from J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr fame, 'Elastic Days' beautifully encompasses a wide variety of J Mascis' leanings including folk, Americana and classic rock to brilliant effect. Heart-wrenching in places but ultimately optimistic, this is yet another display of how versatile and talented this man is. Superb.

    TRACK LISTING

    See You At The Movies
    Web So Dense
    I Went Dust
    Sky Is All We Had
    Picking Out The Seeds
    Give If Off
    Drop Me
    Cut Stranger
    Elastic Days
    Sometimes
    Wanted You Around
    Everything She Said

    J Mascis

    Tied To A Star

      J Mascis’ Tied to a Star, the follow up to his acclaimed Sub Pop debut 'Several Shades of Why'. The album, led by the songs “Every Morning” and “Wide Awake,” was recorded and produced by Mascis and mixed by John Agnello at Bisquiteen in Amherst, MA.

      'Tied to a Star' also features guest appearances from musicians Ken Maiuri (Young@Heart Chorus), Pall Jenkins (Black Heart Procession), Mark Mulcahy (Miracle Legion) and Chan Marshall (Cat Power).

      STAFF COMMENTS

      Andy says: J seems to write prettier songs the older he gets. This is another gorgeous, mellow, mainly acoustic record, but with his trademark, sweetly melodic electric lead runs, occasionally making an appearance.

      TRACK LISTING

      1. Me Again
      2. Every Morning
      3. Heal The Star
      4. Wide Awake
      5. Stumble
      6. And Then
      7. Drifter
      8. Trailing Off
      9. Come Down
      10. Better Plane

      J Mascis

      Several Shades Of Why

        First ever studio acoustic album from Dinosaur Jr’s J Mascis.

        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 (longtime 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.

        STAFF COMMENTS

        Andy says: It was about time he turned down the volume a bit, and with his songwriting fully restored to its former glory, as evidenced on his last (and so loud it had to be re-mastered quieter!) record, now was the right time to do it. Excellent.

        David says: When you’re renowned the world over for immediately identifiable, ear-shredding, guitar solos and having pretty much nothing to say about pretty much - well, pretty much everything really, then releasing a solo, acoustic album is probably the only thing you could do as an artist to both confuse and confound your audience in equal measure. For 26 years Mascis has been happy to let his guitar do the talking and who can blame him? There are very few guitarists who can lay claim to so easily a recognizable style and sound, making the decision to turn down the volume from 11 and let his voice be heard, all the more inspired. His weathered, campfire slacker drawl has a delicate compassion that has rarely, if ever, survived the sonic onslaught that is a Dinosaur Jnr album and the guitar playing too, rejoices in its new found simplicity making “Several Shades Of Why” the surprise record of 2011.

        TRACK LISTING

        1. Listen To Me
        2. Several Shades Of Why
        3. Not Enough
        4. Very Nervous And Love
        5. Is It Done
        6. Make It Right
        7. Where Are You
        8. Too Deep
        9. Can I
        10. What Happened


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