In most ways, J. Mascis' new album Several Shades of Why is a departure from the raw, experimental sound of Mascis' youth, when he was first playing with indie idols Dinosaur Jr. The soft flute harmonies and legato violin parts describe a much gentler life than the growling guitars of Dinosaur's hayday, certainly, but there is no escaping Mascis' husky yet tender tones, instantly recognisable on Several Shades of Why.

The album opens with 'Listen to Me', percussive acoustic guitar played under rough-around-the-edges vocals, Mascis sounding a little like a hungover Gary Moore. Its melancholy simplicity is appealing, but the album really kicks in at track two, the title track. The opening phrases are catchy in a more forgivable, honest way than the mindless repetition of a Lady Gaga single; 'Several Shades of Why' is an incredibly pretty song.

After this, 'Not Enough' brings in a more upbeat, conventional song structure. Vocal harmonies help to make it so appealing, along with the simple but listenable lyrics; "My love is over and I wish I didn't know" implored sympathy from the moment I heard it.

Here, the album starts to get a bit repetitive, because despite Mascis' vocals being a main attraction for many of his long-time fans, for a casual listener, his voice does not come over particularly versatile. 'Very Nervous and Love' and 'Is It Done' are at times a bit too basic, and of course, there are no drums on the album to carry it along through those duller moments. However, in my opinion, the best track of the album surprises you by following these. 'Make It Right' finds a perfect balance of simplicity and expressiveness, crying guitar and murmurs of piano playing beneath lyrics like a lovers' embrace. The rest of the tracks follow in a similar vein, gentle and genuine and preoccupied mostly with love, the muse that never seems to loosen its grip on music.

Judging by the effort clearly put into each song, Several Shades of Why is an album crafted with love. From the beautiful instrumentation, chosen specifically to fit the mood of each track, to the calculated honesty of the lyrics, J. Mascis' next solo release is moving from the off, though it occasionally lapses into the repetitive and conventional.