It’s been about three years since guitar hero J. Mascis released any new solo material. Known for his soulful lead guitar playing and slow sentimental song constructions, Mascis sounds like an indie-rock version of Bon Iver. Although some appreciate this fleecy sound, Tied to a Star lacked any poignant sound foundation, leaving the album a spineless conglomerate that, quite frankly, can be described as boring.
“Wide Awake” and “Every Morning,” the two featured singles, are the most diverse songs on the album. Unlike straightforward tracks such as “Me Again,” “Trailing Off,” and “Better Plane,” the aforementioned benefited from brief electric guitar solos, percussion, and more of the jaunty indie-rock pace to their development. The majority of the album focuses on themes such as self-actualization, drug use, moving on from youth, and loss of time. For this reason, the painful sameness of the instrumentals and vocals was more justifiable, as the tone was one of a depressing epiphany.
The most redeemable feature of this release is definitely Mascis’ guitar technique. Ranked 5th in Spin’s list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time, Mascis is a true legend. Given that the majority of the songs on the album featured minimal instrumental diversity, the guitar was the focus and perhaps the only thing that made this album tolerable. Mascis has an organic, clean sound that feels somewhat distinct from the songs’ melancholy tones.
The best song on the album, “Drifter,” showcases the guitar in its long, folksy, all-instrumental nature. The song, which appeared at odds with the album’s otherwise moody singer-songwriter temperament, mirrored other notable guitar-driven pieces like John Butler Trio’s “Ocean”.
The album is worth skimming through, especially if you’re a long-time Mascis fan; however, don’t be expecting too much for it—it’s much more of a multitasking album than a stop-everything-you’re-doing-and-listen kind of production.