6 November 2014
J Mascis - Tied To A Star
The year 2014 has been a strange year for releases, even as we hit November (as the blog team enters the last month for blogs that can go towards the end of year votes) and the reviews might come a bit faster than they have over the last few months; we are still no closer to an overall contender for album of the year. So at this point it is go, go, go as far as album are concerned and one of the releases from 2014 which has been placed on the backburner for a bit is the either the sixth or second solo album from Dinosaur Jr front man - J Mascis. In January 2013, I reviewed 'Several Shades Of Why' (Cleverly linked here) and I reminisced about how I purchased that album, hated it upon first listen and then feel in love with its charm and grace. Because the first (or fifth - it is confusing) album was initial a bit of a letdown/I was in the wrong mood type of album, I have been trying to listen to this album a lot more that I sometimes do with other album I review (since you asked, a minimum of ten times per album). I have been listening to this album for a few months on and off, just to give it time to sink in; I wanted to be fair to the artist and saying as this blog is more a personal opinion blog - ie, we swear, we bitch, we hate artists who are shit type of blog - I thought that I would use my discretion. So, with a bit of a delay we will wait no further time on our review on this album.
"Me Again" is the title of the first song of the album, but no matter how many times I listen to the song I just feel like it could have been used on the last album. This is not a criticism; it just feels like it could have been picked off that album. It is nice and easy on the ear, a very pleasant tune and a perfect song for the darker months of the Northern Hemisphere; I have found myself singing it out loud so it is obviously a strong song, it is just not too far from the original map in terms of the first solo album. Now "Early Morning" is more energetic and full of spirit, it is also the first album from the two studio releases to use a full drum kit. It starts to set it apart from the previous release and gives it a different slant on the world. It is a really fun number and makes me want to jump around the room in that free form indie dancing that you do when you are a kid (go on, admit it; I know you have done it too!!!!) and that is the sort of thing I enjoy about music; when it can make you feel as if you do not have a care and that it can help you mood. The lyrics are a little bit of a downer, but the positive vibes of the song makes you realise that you are not alone. So it someone else can make a positive out of a negative, is the world that bad? "Heal The Star" is the next song and it goes for a different direction, the path of the song is a soul detaching route to "Early Morning" and already this album is paying off in different ways to 'Several Shades Of Why'. The musical direction of the song is similar, yet there is an almost Middle-Eastern tone to the guitar; the end of the song strengthens this tone with the percussions that join Mr Mascis on this song. So far, this album is proving to be much like its predecessor - a ruby in the ruff.
"Wide Awake" is something of a throwback to the first album again, not that this is a bad thing at all. The tune is a soulful strum with a pleasant female backing every now and then; it is another slice of emotion from the Dinosaur Jr. front man which shows he is not a one dimensional indie beast. "Stumble" is a little fuzzier, chunkier and could have easily been beefed up for a full band to play; the more I played it, then I feel under its charms as it is a very subtle number in its delivery. The grunge/American lo-fi indie almost drone nature of the song sings to me in ways that cannot be said without sounding so nerdy it hurts. So, it is safe to say that this song (and album so far) is turning into a subtle grower of the year so far. The sixth track of the album is called "And Then", which skirts very close to being a bit too twee and nice; the playing is not the problem for me on this number, it is just very gentle and could have easily sent me to sleep; but around the two minute mark when the fuzzy guitar starts to quietly roar it saves the number. Not the worst song I have heard this year, but a lull for the album.
"Drifter" has a strange country/celtic nature about it, for almost three minutes you have Mascis and his minstrels playing a great instrumental jig that brings a laid back excitement to proceedings. Full of gentle energy, little highs, lows and pauses that will make this song a highlight when he goes out on tour for this album. "Trailing Off" is the eighth album goes back to the more the quiet opening that morphs into a more frantic number a bit like "And Then", but without the twee and duffle coat feeling of Munford & Sons. It is a fine line which is being treaded here and it is done with a skill and talent which comes from years of experience. Again, it is not something I am totally head over heels about; but for what it is, it is not a bad song. "Come Down" is the penultimate song of the album, it is the longest number of the album; once again, the song starts to stray towards the edge of twee that is a little too sugary for my tastes. However, once again Mr Mascis manages to steer clear of the obvious pitfalls that can be made with an acoustic album. Ending the album is "Better Plane" which is one of the standout tracks of the album, a bit rockier in feeling and delivery and it could easily been off the Dinosaur Jr album "Where You Been". The slow and fuzzy solo towards the end bring the album to a brilliant close.
This album is a good album, cleverly done and the performance is brilliant. I really enjoyed the songs, it did have a couple of lulls that caused my mind to drift; however you have to applaud J Mascis for keeping the interest going and turning the songs around. The only thing about the album is that it is not that far from his last solo album. Whilst it has not hurt the careers of AC/DC and Motorhead to keep making the same album, I do not think that this album is one that should be remade too many times. It is well done and makes for an interesting listen, but not an adventurous album. That said if you are a fan of this man then you will enjoy it; so long as you do not expect something different.
7.5 out of ten - This is good and well worth a check
Top track - Every Morning
You can purchase the album from Amazon here
You can visit the J Mascis website here
You can listen to the album on Spotify here
For our Deezer users, here is a link for you to hear the album
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