J Mascis + Friends - Sing + Chant for AMMA (CD)
Devotional music is always a mixed bag and this is no exception. But it's also interesting to see a musician step outside of himself and experiment. Sing & Chant for Amma may not offer the conventional 'Dinosaur Jr' experience, but J's voice and guitar work are familiar enough to draw you in if you keep an open mind. The effect is somewhat like a Sunday morning jam session after a long exhausting festival. It's beautiful, sometimes winding and lazy, but always waiting to turn a corner. Sing & Chant for Amma beseeches without anger. This is an album of love songs, a perfect backdrop for a quiet day spent watching the clouds drift.
J Mascis + the Fog - Free So Free (CD)
Free So Free delivers 10 mainly mid-tempo alt-rock songs that are exactly what Dinosaur fans wanted. The songs on Free So Free are still simplistic, yet clever and catchy. Almost the only thing that was retained from the early Dinosaur is the accomplished guitar work. The guitar is, and always will be (I hope), the focal point of almost every J Mascis album, and it's no different here. The drums and bass sit in the back seat while the guitars drive this record, whether it be the acoustic riff or the wah-wah drenched solo. Free So Free is a reminder of how far J Mascis has come since Hardcore of Dead Wound, and how almost two decades after Dinosaur Jr's first release he still can write great songs that convey his emotions brilliantly.
J Mascis + the Fog - More Light (CD)
More Light alternates between soaring rock songs and sweet, lonely ballads. The album succeeds so well because Mascis sounds confident about what he’s doing. Each note seems placed right where it should be, yet the album has the same ragged, loose feeling of the best of Dinosaur Jr. Sounding both disheveled and together in the same moment is quite a feat. The album also has some of the best melodies Mascis has penned in years. On one level, More Light is such a great J. Mascis album because it rocks so hard and so well. Yet it also shows a wider range of musical styles than his work before. He’s not experimenting, really—in general he’s covering the same ground as always. But there are new stylistic touches throughout that really fit the songs, like the gentle piano on many songs. All in all, More Light has a true sense of progression to it, and it’s a great reminder of how talented a songwriter J. Mascis is.
Jason Simon - Self Titled (CD)
Jason Simon is the vocalist and guitarist of Dead Meadow.
Jason Simon is best known as the voice behind D.C.-based psychedelic/stoner rock trio Dead Meadow. The singer’s beautiful tenor vocals are at once distinctive and captivating, with the range and delivery to slowly draw listeners in and keep them engaged. On his solo project, Simon retains the spacey atmosphere of Dead Meadow, but uses acoustic guitar to affect a much quieter, more relaxed theme on the music. It is neither folk nor blues, but rather a style that lies somewhere in the middle; soft and calm, but still highly expressive, intelligent, and meaningful. Fans of folk musicians like Imaad Wasif and Harper Simon will fall in love with this album. Make no mistake—Jason Simon now has two musical avenues for creativity beyond the imaginations of mere mortals.
Javelina - Self Titled (CD)
Southern sludge it is, and Javelina heaps on plenty of influences with gusto and aplomb to put together a ripsnorter of an album. Throw in equal parts Eyehategod (speed it up a bit and use less heroin, though) and “Technocracy”-era Corrosion Of Conformity (well, add moments of “Blind”, too), add a dash or two of Soilent Green/ Goatwhore, and include a few post-thrash, sludge, stoner touches evocative of newer acts such as The Fucking Wrath, and you have Javelina’s debut full-length in a nutshell.
Frankly, this album is just damn catchy while being crushingly heavy at the same time. Although this genre has been done to death and Javelina are treading rather well worn ground, the mix of exceptionally catchy songs and the pure heft of this album has really grabbed a hold of me. Strong riffs, a dual vocal attack, a thick bass with plenty of huge chops, a generally mid-paced to up tempo structure with some great variation within songs, some sludge laden stoner navel contemplation, and even a few fleeting moments of melody are all present in spades on the debut. All of these disparate elements are seamlessly woven together to produce an excellent debut album that speaks volumes of the potential of Javelina.
Jesu - Conqueror (CD)
Better than the previous Jesu releases. Justin takes his melodies to new levels. They are lighter and more ethereal than ever. Maybe not as musically heavy as previous JKB stuff, but the emotion is there. God damn Broadrick can write!
Conqueror is the epitome of calm. As a full length release of only 8 tracks, the songs are lengthy. Yet without the pressures of time, each song is like a journey that builds and ends at an even flow. As a result there are no standout tracks, but a continual wave of sound washing out of your stereo. Playing this record also has the effect of turning whatever dingy digs you're in into a full blown cathedral. Instruments rise and fall out of nowhere, echoing and rebounding throughout the songs. The effect is incredibly relaxing. For all that is going on in the record however, there is an element of this album simply fading into the background. Yet this quality could easily see it used to great effect to soundtrack a film. However, if the time is taken to really listen to what is going on in this record, one would certainly commend the efforts Mr Broadrick has applied.
Elements of Conqueror could be enjoyed by anyone, but particularly those who desire the delights of musical experimental ism with a modern edge. This is a haunting, soothing and warming record all at the same time. While it might not change the world, it certainly gives everyone else much to think about. Enjoy the experience.
Jesu - Lifeline (CD)
Jesu's latest EP takes Justin Broadrick's new direction of slow and melodic to the next level. With heavy use of synths that pad out the backing on every track, Lifeline sounds almost like a Cure record with Broadrick playing over it in spots. That's a good thing if you ask me, but I can see how some folks are going to hear this and think that it's a little more lightweight than expected from a guy known for bleak, menacing works of angst. Even when stacked up against other Jesu records, this one seems intentionally more accessible and maybe sentimental, but that's okay.
The truth is, all that heavy grind scream pound collapse type of material just wears on my soul anymore. I still like to get my catharsis on, but there's only so much of that I can take and maybe it's because I just don't feel the need to stick it to the world on a daily basis like I used to. I welcome the softer and more approachable stuff that Jesu is doing now because it still has enough depth to be meaningful but it's not necessarily reliant on bonding with my inner demons to be successful.
Jesus Fucking Christ - Life's Hateful Seed (CD)
Life’s Hateful Seed is a merciless record. It has a traditional punk edge that reverts back to the best times of Black Flag and Negative Approach. The riffing is lightning fast and in some passages brings memories of old school speed metal. It’s a nice blend for sure. One that goes down like shit on chocolate.
Jesus Fucking Christ - Self Titled (CD)
The music reminds me of early Corrosion Of Conformity, Poison Idea, Battalion Of Saints, and even at times Crucifix. They definitely have a mid ‘80s sound going for them. Rock and metal overtones played at a mid-tempo to fast pace, but straight up punk rock. The vocals are yelled or screamed but phonetic so that you can understand what is being sung. Their guitars are crunchy and bright, so they sound warm opposed to dirty. Bass is nice and clean but punchy and also warm. The drumming is more than competent with a sound that’s reminiscent of early drummers from the So Cal scene. I saw this band a number of months ago. The crusty kids didn’t quite get it. But I think if they gave a few listens to this disc, they will learn that there are other ways to play punk.
Jex Thoth - Witness (IMPORT) (CD EP)
“Witness” is perhaps less guitar oriented than before with the mood becoming more melancholy in the process; the music is heavy yet laid back and openly nostalgic without being sentimental or trite. The band’s biggest strengths are the haunting vocals of Jex and avoiding the usual trap of carbon copying its predecessors. As such this will appeal to fans of pastoral, psychedelic rock/metal with a firm footing in the past but not necessarily dwelling there -- timeless, really.