J Mascis has one of the most distinctive voices in music, though his slightly off-kilter warble is understandably not for everyone. But as someone who had a college radio gig when Mascis’ band Dinosaur Jr. was breaking big in the ’90s, I continue to check in on his current projects (including a reunited Dinosaur Jr.) even if I’m only the most casual fan at this point.
Earlier this year, Mascis released Several Shades Of Why…, a nearly all-acoustic affair on which he not only axed the amps, but banished drums too. I never thought I’d describe anything Mascis had done as beautiful, but Several Shades Of Why… really is. The title track, featuring violinist Sophie Trudeau, is particularly affecting.
Never shy about covering others’ songs (Dinosaur Jr. doing The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” is essential listening), Mascis has been playing Edie Brickell & New Bohemians’ “Circle” during his string of dates to support Several Shades. This past week, Sub Pop released the cover as both a 7″ vinyl and digital single.
“Circle” is one of those tunes that’s confounding familiar. Edie Brickell & New Bohemians’ follow-up to their inescapable debut single, “What I Am” (a #7 hit), didn’t manage to break the Top 40, but somehow I know this heartbreaking tune of an ended friendship and have cherished it for ages (well, from some point since its 1988 release).
I don’t know how Mascis came around to “Circle,” but it’s a perfect pick for his folkie phase, and the song’s weariness couldn’t be more well suited to his singing style: