Dinosaur Jr’s J Mascis is rightfully known as one of our generations greatest guitarists — The man can shred like few others. Yet, that very designation which has sealed Mascis’ reputation in the underground can also be a detriment to his legacy. Ask yourself, who are the greatest songwriters of the alt-rock generation? Did you include Mascis? Of course you didn’t. It’s hard to discern his half-mumbled lines when shredding abounds. Now, with a solo album on the way for Sub Pop Records, Mascis is taking a stripped-down approach to his music. There’s an acoustic guitar on “Not Enough,” and there’s Mascis’ quiet voice. There are no giant stacks of amps to wrench your teeth. There is no sludge and there is no slaying. And, surprisingly, it is enough.
On “Do What You Will,” Jason Robert Quever, the principal behind recent Sub Pop signee, Papercuts, displays an amazing combination of depth, clarity, and subtlety. Ostensibly, it’s a downtrodden folk tune, but upon closer listen, there’s layer upon layer to be heard. One can make out audio references to Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, the long-eyed pop of Galaxie 500, and the glimmering guitar sound of a band like The Walkmen. Again, it’s a testament to Quever’s talents that this song can be so full, yet feel so spacious at the same time.
Bittersweet and slight, “Jesus Fever,” is the sound of the rapture everyone missed. During the verses Kurt Vile deadpans time and again, “I’m already gone.” While the chorus speaks of a Jesus fever striking both lovers and believers in a similar mono-toned delivery. This track would be the downer of downers except for one thing — Vile’s guitar playing. His acoustic is brightly picked in clean, clear tones, hinting that he does indeed care, just not about the second coming of Christ.
For The Cave Singers’ third album, and first for new label Jagjaguwar, the band enlisted heavy music producer Randall Dunn, a man best known for his work with such Rock ‘N’ Roll behemoths as Black Mountain, Sunn O))), and Boris. You wouldn’t know it by listening to, “Swim Club,” however. This is another back-porch jam from the Seattle band; Intricately strummed, fancifully sung and delivered with stunning ease.