Tied to a Star
(Sub Pop Records)
J Mascis is one of indie rock’s great survivors, with his output now just as consistent and recognizable as it was decades ago. The Dinosaur Jr. frontman has once again gone the mostly acoustic route for Tied to a Star, his latest solo effort since 2011’s Several Shades of Why. Don’t think of this as simplistic though; even without all the distortion and shredding, Mascis’ guitar work is as intricate and fascinating as ever.
Mascis’ vocal delivery is often melodic and subdued rather than rising to his familiar rasp. It’s almost easier to turn on and zone out into the music rather than paying attention to the music. There are many beautiful moments here, particularly in the instrumental track, “Drifter.” This is where folk rock meets Celtic influence, and it’s easy to picture a jig to go along with the music. “Every Morning” combines upbeat acoustic guitar with a few signature electronic caterwauls to create stunning contrast. Electric guitar again comes into play during “Trailing Off,” as his shredding comes in to complement the lyrics about reaching the end of his patience. For me, the most notable track on the album is the delicate “Wide Awake.” Mascis’ quiet voice and intricate fingerpicking give the track an early-morning, sleepy quality. The lyrics describe waiting for someone else, and Chan Marshall (Cat Power) joins in to provide a clever female perspective.
Fans of Mascis’ grittier work may find themselves unfulfilled by Tied to a Star, but it’s a worthy and logical follow-up to Several Shades of Why. I for one appreciate Mascis basking in making quiet and beautiful music just because he knows he can.