Where: Sub Pop
Typically a J Mascis record would be filled with three stacks of amplifiers bursting out as much heavily distorted riffs and solos as possible, with a side order of melody and drizzled with a drawl that somehow keeps this big spillage of sound together to loosely form something pretty freaking good. However, a J Mascis solo record usually focuses on how quiet J Mascis can be, trading in his prized electric guitars and using acoustic guitars to create a sound that’s warm as it is vague, like a hazy walk through the desert or something. J’s second solo record Tied To A Starlooks to contribute to predecessor Several Shades Of Why‘s acoustic siesta while accompanying a couple touches of electric elements too.
What’s clear from the tracklisting alone is that J is back to his vintage ability to name his material. And Then, Drifter and Come Down in particular are comically bland song titles, especially considering J Mascis is the mind behind the likes of You’re Living All Over Me and Bug, but it does add a touch of perpetual confusion to surround what’s inside. Which is…quite sad really. This constant wandering of the airwaves seems to be the ‘theme’ of Tied To A Star as opening track Me Again slowly gets itself going with a mid-tempo introduction comprised of not-too-flashy acoustic chords and J’s trademark drawl kind of entering the spotlight with it’s back towards the audience. There’s a shyness to this track, and the falsetto hook drops in with as little impact as possible, which fits with the ‘theme’ of being a stranger in a complete unknown setting perfectly.
Lead single Every Morning is the sound I want to hear when I wake up every morning. I want to always wake up to the sound of the upbeat instrumental mostly based off a very happily strummed acoustic guitar, and drums that add an extra bounce in it’s step. The lyrics talk about waking up into a person you’ll never be and quickly reverting back to your traditional self, which is not only extremely sad but also creates a nice, stark contrast against the instrumentation. J lets a couple solos loose on the track and lets them play with his electric guitar for a bit which translates over onto Heal The Star, boosting it’s impact with some background sounds against the firmly strummed acoustic riffs.
The album treads down a thicker, heavier path as J brings in the electric influence in the further material. Stumble features a constant riff that buzzes in the background and contributes another sweet guitar melody alongside the always-pained falsetto to be one of the standout emotive tracks on the album. Drifter heads down a country route with all kinds of finger-picking to form an instrumental that has drive and purpose and the first sense of direction on this record.
Tied To A Star is another great addition to J Mascis’ short solo discography. This is a record that makes a lot of noise when it wants to but shys away the second it feels like it’s becoming a little extrovert. Much like J’s mind, there’s a shyness embedded within the moments of chaos, and there’s an intricateness inside the acoustic melodies that kind of makes everything seem that much more personal, while the comically vague song titles and lyrics keep J and the listener at a distance. It’s a whole load of complicated whatnots that hurts my mind right now. Tied To A Star is a great record and another standout for J Mascis, and that’s all that matters. For more music reviews, free downloads and hiiiiiii J check out Exploding Head Syndrome on Facebook and Twitter.