Album Review: J. Mascis, 'Tied to a Star'


j mascis tied to a star
'Tied to a Star' is the second solo album from J. Mascis. (© 2014 Sub Pop.)

There are a number of frontmen from rock bands who tone it down a bit when they get the opportunity to release a solo record. Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam did it. Bob Mould did it on his Workbook album after Hüsker Dü broke up. And so has J. Mascis from Dinosaur Jr.

And who would blame them? After years of writing rock songs, you know there's got to be a couple of acoustic songs that have been written but never made it into the mix. "Going acoustic" isn't about finding a softer side of music; it's more about showcasing vocals and compositions that can often hide behind the guitar hooks of their plugged-in cousin.

The follow-up to 2011's Several Shades of Why is Mascis' second solo album, Tied to a Star, which he self-recorded and produced. Instead of the characteristic growly voice, you hear lighter, airy vocals and even a falsetto like in "Stumble". And like his first solo album, Mascis has some friends helping him on songs; for example, Chan Marshall — Cat Power — provides soft harmonies on "Wide Awake" that complement the sandpapery voice of Mascis. Pall Jenkins of The Black Heart Procession, Mark Mulcahy of Miracle Legion and Ken Maiuri of Young@Heart Chorus also guest on the album.

While mostly straightforward and catchy, like with the acoustic and electric single "Every Morning", Tied to a Star also dabbles in different sounds; the instrumental "Drifter", for instance, seeps with West Indian influences. The strength of this album is that it is a solid and complete album from start to finish that doesn't get boring and, in fact, continues to grow with every listen.

And even though this might be a more subdued record, you can't take the rock out of the frontman: the last song on the album is "Better Plane", which ends on a noodling electric guitar solo … proving Mascis is anything but a rock 'n' roll dinosaur.

What do you think of the album? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Related Stories

comments powered by Disqus