Year Of Mondays (TAG Recordings ’96) Rating: A-
Dinosaur Jr. bassist Mike Johnson proved to be a significant talent in his own right with this sophomore effort, which was far more satisfying than Dinosaur Jr. leader J. Mascis’ solo album released that same year. Having previously played a large role in Screaming Trees' Mark Lanegan's excellent solo albums, Year Of Mondays is similarly moody, depressing, and gorgeous. Despite an occasional case of the mumbles, Johnson generally employs his deep, somewhat croaky baritone effectively, and his accomplished guitar playing is aided by an excellent supporting cast: J. Mascis (drums, tympanis), Screaming Trees’ drummer Barrett Bartin (upright bass, vibes), and most notably David Krueger, whose violin playing gives many of these songs their mournful flavor. Johnson’s songwriting is consistently strong, and his lush orchestrations and country folk melodies alternately recall Leonard Cohen and Neil Young, though the bouts of highly charged electric guitar that mark songs such as “Way It Will Be/Too Far” and “Say It’s So” also unsurprisingly bring Dinosaur Jr. to mind. “Why Can’t I?” (ironically the title of Johnson’s first album) and “Hold The Reins” are sumptuously sad highlights, but this album’s claim to greatness rests primarily with two 9+ minute extravaganzas. The brilliantly atmospheric “Eclipse” is worthy of Tindersticks, while the slowly sighing country of “Overdrive” eventually develops into a memorable guitar-violin duel that ends the album on a high. Throw in several other low-key winners and it's easy to see why this album briefly made Monday my favorite day of the week.