Words About Music
J Mascis “Tied to a Star”
J Mascis is a man who needs no introduction. He’s a seasoned indie legend most famous for being the singer and guitarist of beloved noise rock/indie rock group Dinosaur Jr. If you’ve not listened to this band, you have some work to do. Members of the Cult of Mascis may also recognize him as an incredibly versatile musician who’s dabbled in hardcore punk, doom metal, and indie folk. If Lou Reed was indie rock’s crazy grandfather, then J Mascis is the scene’s soft-spoken uncle that occasionally smokes pot. Since reviving Dinosaur Jr. over half a decade ago, Mascis has also taken to beginning a solo career. “Tied to a Star” is his second solo album, a collection of jams that definitely sets itself apart from Mascis’ other projects in its primary reliance on the acoustic guitar. Fans of his monotone mumble of a voice (I mean that in the best way possible) as well as his falsetto will probably enjoy this record. Those looking for noisy distortion should look elsewhere.
One thing I love about J Mascis is that he seems to make decent-to-great music with almost zero effort. His songs sound so natural that it’s a wonder they hadn’t yet been written. He proves on this album that underneath the layers of shoegazing and heavy metal Marshall stacks is a gifted singer/songwriter that could have been just as successful if he’d started off in the ’80s as a solo artist. While I do prefer the instantly recognizable sound of Dinosaur Jr., “Tied to a Star” is a decent collection of tracks that could’ve been ignorable or irrelevant. Instead, it’s good.
While there are flashes of traditional Mascis distortion on this album, it’s for the most part a fairly straightforward folk-ish record that demonstrates his versatility as an artist. I wouldn’t say it quite shows his songwriting at its best, but it’s a plain series of songs that wouldn’t be out of place in Zach Braff’s third “Garden State” movie. Some of the songs on here, like “Wide Awake,” are especially touching, but this album isn’t especially brilliant or outstanding considering the rest of his discography. I do like that Mascis balances his vocals with some excellent guitar work. Sort of reminds me of Elliott Smith, who was just as great a guitar player as he was singer and songwriter.
All told, “Tied to a Star” is an album I enjoyed more than I thought I would, but it’s not amazing. I wasn’t blown away by it, but I didn’t really expect to be. J Mascis, at this point in his career, doesn’t really need to blow minds anymore. He’s a seasoned veteran that can continue making decent music for the rest of his life if he wants to. He does what he wants, and this album is an example of a pursuit that I wouldn’t mind continuing to hear from him. He’s a strong songwriter, and if you can get past his singing voice I’m sure you’ll be able to find something about this album that you like. But he’s J Mascis, so what’s not to like?
SCORE – 7.0
FAVORITE TRACKS – Me Again, Every Morning, Wide Awake, And Then, Trailing Off, Come Down, Better Plane