If you exclude his solo live album and those with The Fog it took until 2011 for Dinosaur Jr’s J Mascis to release his debut solo album (Several Shades of Why) so it’s a pleasant surprise that the followup is already upon us. He follows a similar template with Tied to a Star, eschewing drums for the most part and using a more organic sonic palette that includes strings and piano as well as his dynamic and emotive guitar playing.
Tied to a Star is by no means a mellow acoustic affair. First single ‘Every Morning’ fairly bristles with a lively energy and is the closest to what the listener might expect from the frontman of Dinosaur Jr with a spiralling solo and Mascis’ seemingly endless ability to dress his songs in effortless vocal melodies. Tension and release are strong features of the album with the beaten strings and frantic Indian raga vibe of ‘Heal the Star’ contrasting with the Chan Marshall (Cat Power) assisted ‘Wide Awake’. Built on fast and free-flowing fingerpicking with blissed-out, half-asleep vocals it creates a pillowy, dreamy listening experience. The same energy and acoustic playing deployed in ‘Heal the Star’ also populates ‘Drifter’, a song that doffs its cap to the likes of John Fahey and contemporary guitarists like Ben Chasny (Six Organs of Admittance) and Jack Rose.
There is a real sense of balance at play across these ten songs. Mascis has found a place of comfort and creativity where he can reach out and pull down those fuzzed out Crazy Horse meets hardcore riffs, classic soaring electric solos, lazy back-porch strumming or his more recent penchant for droning, intertwining acoustic fingerpicking. Behind the musicality remains his innate sense of melody and song craft which is as strong as ever. Outside of Dinosaur Jr this is Mascis’ finest work to date.
this review was first published on Under The Radar