J Mascis: What Do We Do Now [Album Review]

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J Mascis
What Do We Do Now
Sub Pop Records [2024]

Album Overview: What Do We Do Now is the fifth solo studio album by J Mascis. Recorded at his Bisquiteen Studio in Western Massachusetts, it marks a departure from his usual solo acoustic style, incorporating full drums and electric leads while retaining acoustic rhythm parts. The album features guest musicians Ken Mauri (The B-52) on keys and Matthew “Doc” Dunn on steel guitar, adding depth to Mascis’ signature sound.

Musical Style: The album blends elements of alternative rock, post-core, and power ballads. Mascis’ characteristic guitar-driven melodies are complemented by Mauri’s piano and Dunn’s steel guitar, creating a rich sonic landscape. The songs balance between introspective acoustic moments and dynamic, full-band arrangements.

Evolution of Sound: What Do We Do Now represents an evolution in Mascis’ solo work, integrating fuller instrumentation compared to his previous acoustic-oriented albums. While maintaining his distinct songwriting style, Mascis explores new sonic territory by incorporating drums and electric leads, offering a fresh perspective on his solo output. Just having his signature electric guitar playing here gives What Do We Do Now a fresh turn for his solo work but it does shorten the gap between his Dinosaur Jr. output. If you removed some of the volume and distortion from Dinosaur Jr. you land in this space Mascis has created.

Artists with Similar Fire: Fans of Dinosaur Jr. and Mascis’ previous solo work will find familiar elements in What Do We Do Now. The album’s blend of alternative rock and introspective songwriting will also appeal to listeners of Neil Young, Elliott Smith, and Built to Spill.

Pivotal Tracks: “Can’t Believe We’re Here” is the opening track that sets the template for the album’s more rocked-up spirit. Slower beginning with the guitar injected into the middle. “Set Me Down” is an interesting song that showcases Mascis’ classic shred and dynamic guitar work as the instrument works feverishly in the background. “You Don’t Understand Me” has a more Americana/rock blend as it finds the steel guitar, embodying the album’s post-core power ballad aesthetic.

Lyrical Strength: Mascis’ lyrics explore themes of introspection, uncertainty, and personal reflection. From the waning days of the Pandemic to the broader question of What Do We Do Now, the album’s lyrical content resonates with a sense of searching and contemplation, complementing its musical arrangements with emotional depth and sincerity.

Tied To A Star (2014)

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