Intimate, Mature, Solid.
If you’re a Dinosaur Jr. fan you won’t be too surprised to see another J Mascis record surface in 2014. Over the past few years we have seen the indie rock icons frontman Mascis churn out quality after quality release at a prolific rate. With each project an opportunity for Mascis to show off his various talents, whether it’s long solos, acoustic covers, pounding the drum skins or perhaps just to lend his vocals, Mascis has been busy. On Tied to a Star we find Mascis returning to his acoustic roots.
On his second album for legendary Seattle indie label Sub Pop, it would appear that Mascis has picked up right where 2011’s brilliant Several Shades Of Why solo offering left off. The self produced gem was a perfect vehicle for Mascis to deliver a collection of beautifully crafted tracks which carried his signature song writing skills without the baggage of super fuzz or big muffs to allow Mascis to fall into the trap of over extended guitar solo’s. Since Several Shades Of Why, we have seen Mascis deliver a succession of quality releases. There’s been Dinosaur’s Jr.’s return to form on 2012’s I Bet on Sky, Heavy Blanket’s numerous releases and a guest vocalist spot on Glass Boys, the latest record from ambitious Toronto hardcore stalwarts Fucked Up.
Thankfully, on Tied to a Star, Mascis is manning the production boards and seems well aware of his strengths and weakness’ which creates an intimate structure for this album to blossom. Although the production at times seems almost amateur-esque, each track still seamlessly flows as cohesively as all Mascis related albums.
The album begins with the dreamlike “Me Again” before rolling into the upbeat single “Every Morning”, however, the album does not really kick into gear until “Heal the Star.” With the introduction of tablas amongst the percussion, the song swerves from a standard run of the mill acoustic strum and hum number into an Eastern tinged flurried finish displaying Mascis’ most recent influences. This, in turn beautifully sets up the recently released single and album highlight “Wide Awake” featuring Cat Power. The uptempo fingerpicking song intensifies as the song progress’ until eventually the duo’s vocals intertwine in an angelic manner. Beautiful.
Unfortunately, Mascis fails to build on the momentum created at this point of the album and whilst the following tracks “And Then”, “Come Down” and “Better Plane” do merit their inclusion, the album suffers as weaker tracks appear. Having said this, by the time album closer “Better Plane” fades out after a soft and delicate solo, you may find yourself needing to hit the play button again.
Unsurprisingly, Mascis has delivered another solid release. His output is one of the most consistently solid in indie. Although it may never reach the spectacular heights of Dinosaur Jr. classics Bug or Beyond, Tied to a Star is more than a reminder of J Mascis’ past. It’s also a refreshing sign of maturity. The album may not be re-inventing the wheel but it sure gives a nice spin on a long and relevant career.