J Mascis has traveled down multiple musical paths on drums and guitar but this is his first proper solo acoustic venture, and Sub Pop is the lucky label that gets to release Several Shades of Why. Upon first listen you may mistake this for a demo which points to the delicate nature of its recording but upon multiple listens the tracks unfold with grace. A piano sprinkled here, a tambourine tapping there and strings from all over allow Mascis to do what he does best; first person songs of nervousness that ache in front of guitar majesty.
For those who were put off by the roar of Dinosaur Jr. Several Shades of Why will expose Mascis as the excellent song writer and sonic construction worker that he is. The nuanced playing of the title track leads into the sweet backing vocals of the first single, “Not Enough”. “Make It Right” contains a “Here Comes The Sun Vibe” while a splash of feedback colors “Is It Done”. “Can I” also gets slightly electric and resembles one of J’s more personal sounding Dino tunes, “Alone”, minus the head banging stomp and sludge riffs of course.
It would be a lie to say there aren’t moments when you are wishing for a full band assault to explode, such as on the standout “Where Are You”. Mascis himself seems to show mega-restraint after his first electric run dissolves with a choking of the vibrating 6-strings which seem to want to keep ringing. Sure, drums and a low rumble would fit these songs like a spandex glove, but Several Shades of Why is a new chapter in the artist’s book of works and one that you can revisit on a Sunday morning…after he blows out your ear drums on Saturday night.