Dinosaur Jr. leader J Mascis explores new depths and finds more of himself in the process on his new solo album, What Do We Do Now.
What Do We Do Now is the fifth solo studio album from Dinosaur Jr. frontman J Mascis since 1996, and it's a bit of a departure from the terrain he usually travels. Recorded during the tumultuous days of the pandemic, the album finds Mascis exploring new territory, both musically and lyrically. Utilizing his own Bisquiteen Studio, Mascis embarked on a journey of introspection, writing a series of tunes on acoustic guitar that diverged from his work with Dinosaur Jr. Reflecting on his creative process this time around, Mascis explains, "When I'm writing for the band, I'm always trying to think of doing things Lou and Murph would fit into. For myself, I'm thinking more about what I can do with just an acoustic guitar, even for the leads."
The result is a collection of songs that are stripped-down yet emotionally resonant, with Mascis adding full drums and electric leads to complement his acoustic rhythms. The addition of guest musicians, including Western Mass local Ken Mauri of the B52s on piano and Toronto musician Matthew "Doc" Dunn on steel guitar, also helps to add depth and texture to the album's overall sound. Mauri's piano playing shines on tracks like "I Can't Find You," adding a touch of elegance to Mascis' raw, confessional lyrics. Meanwhile, Dunn's steel guitar infuses the music with a classicist profile, widening and softening its edges in equal measure. Yet, the arrangements on What Do We Do Now are so finely crafted that they stand on their own, offering a fresh perspective on Mascis' distinctive musical style.
Despite the album's introspective nature, Mascis isn't one to dwell on the past. When asked about touring to support the album, he mentions plans for weekend dates but admits he probably won't be putting a band together. In the end, with its heartfelt lyrics and rich instrumentation, What Do We Do Now shows a new side of an artist who continues to expand the borders of alternative rock. As for what comes next, only time will tell.