If I Bet On Sky proves anything, it's that J Mascis is even more comfortable producing the music he wants to make without any concern for anything else. It's in this space when Mascis sounds his best, along with Emmett "Murph" Murphy and Barlow (Sebadoh). As music pioneers, people expect them to press ever on with their pop-rock-punk uniqueness. They never disappoint.
I Bet On Sky rolls out with 10 plus one.
Eleven tracks will give people plenty to talk about, especially with Mascis' beautifully indifferent vocals over the distinct whine of their guitars and consistently tight drums throughout most of the album. Of course, Mascis doesn't sing all eleven. Barlow takes the lead vocals on two, Rude and Recognition.
The first track to be taken in, Watch The Corners, was released in advance of the album as a music video. Like many of the songs, it rolls along with introspection and the passage of time — how we do things, lose things, miss things, and will never have the chance to get them back.
There's a sadness to the song, a loneliness like almost nobody but Mascis can deliver. It also makes you wonder how much the soft-spoken singer-songwriter sometimes reflects on his own life in every somber melodic note.
On the album, Watch The Corners follows Don't Pretend You Didn't Know, which has a similar tempo but with Mascis relying on keys more than his signature guitar. The opener is about waiting for something to spur you along past your fears and toward your dreams. It's mostly about a girl, but it doesn't have to be.
The same might be said about Almost Fare, with more heaviness in the instruments and punctuated by indecision. There's a solid groove to the tune and it makes a perfect lead-in for the ballad Stick A Toe In, where Mascis' lyrics finally seem to get around to doing something instead of sitting back almost unnoticed in a self-reflective corner of the room.
The first four make the punkier attitude of Rude provide a change of pace. It's much less dreamy and much more physical, giving the album the perfect bounce. Along with the punk influence, there is also some folkiness to it. Although still reasonably low key, Rude has a bit of rawness that would make for a lead-in to a jam session.
The balance of a good bet on music.
See It On Your Side closes out the album with some of the band's best guitar work. After two of the weaker tracks on the album, this one stands out as one that will be long remembered for its lyrics, composition, and occasionally chaotic intensity across the instrumentals.
The eleventh track is truly a bonus. This live version of Pond Song from Bug brings it up to date, with Mascis' increasingly muddy and raspy voice making it even more interesting than when it was first released. Playing the original studio version against this live recording gives a glimpse into how the band has changed and matured — all of it, if not almost all of it, for the better.
I Bet On Sky By Dinosaur Jr. Wins With 8.8 On Liquid Hip Richter Scale.
Dinosaur Jr. is one of those bands that every album, whether together or apart, dresses up another generation of influence. Even when they play their old songs, they catch people by surprise. Pond Song is a great example. When it was released, it was one of their best underrated songs. Nowadays, people ask for it.
I Bet On Sky by Dinosaur Jr. was put out by Jagjaguwar and can be found on Amazon. You can also find the album at Barnes & Noble or download it from iTunes. They have several shows lined up in support of the album and you can keep up with them on Facebook. The hero shot above is from their release day party via Instagram.