For his first solo studio album, J. Mascis, the Dinosaur Jr. frontman and guitarist, mostly turns off the fuzz, turns down the volume, and turns up the pathos. The results are several shades of enchanting as this occasionally delicate, at times warped folk song cycle is suffused with a kind of yearning familiar to anyone who has spent late nights into early mornings contemplating love and life.
While Mascis is going it alone on the album cover, the taciturn singer-songwriter called on several friends to contribute various gifts to “Several Shades of Why.’’ First among equals is Sophie Trudeau of A Silver Mount Zion, whose impossibly elegant fiddle lines add a pastoral beauty to the title track. Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses proves a perfect foil for Mascis’s singular warble on several songs and joins fellow backing vocalists Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene and Kurt Vile to form a winsome choir on the springy, tambourine-powered “Not Enough.’’
Vile also adds a dollop of coolly askew slide guitar to “Make It Right.’’ Other helping hands come from Pall Jenkins of Black Heart Procession and Suzanne Thorpe of Wounded Knees. Even buddy Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth chipped in with her handwriting on the album cover.
While the album is certainly quieter and more contained than most of the projects Mascis has worked on, it is certainly no less effective. (Out tomorrow) SARAH RODMAN
ESSENTIAL “Can I’’
J. Mascis plays at the Brighton Music Hall March 26.