The first thought that comes to mind when listening to the opening of “I Bet On Sky” is 90s grunge. The entire album is a throwback to that era of gritty male voices, heavy distortion, feedback, guitar solos and general loudness. The opening track, “Don’t Pretend You Don’t Know” had the light sound of a keyboard alongside the heavy guitar playing, which created an interesting contrast. The deep, slow growl of J. Mascis’s voice sounds almost lazy and detached at times. On “Watch the Corners”, Mascis’s voice did not convey the emotion of the lyrics, “Can I run, but you’ll be there/Disappear it’s never fair…” However, the soaring guitar solos, crashing drums and heavy feedback and distortion made up for the passion his vocals lacked.
The passion and sadness in his voice was clear at other points of the album, especially in “Pierce the Rain” and “What Was That”. The opening guitar riff for “Pierce the Rain” had a heavy metal quality to it and lots of loud, energetic guitar playing. The title of the album was mentioned in this song, which everyone loves. “I won’t abide/I’ll bet on sky to get me through this life.” “What Was That” sounded like the Counting Crows, if they did guitar solos and heavy distortion. Mascis’s voice was very clear here and his low, rumbly voice was melancholic. “Someone said I should see you/I’ll try anything/I open a door and you I wanted more/Never seen something like this before walk right out/What was that?”. A couple of songs on the album were surprisingly catchy and upbeat. “Almost Fare” was one of these and sounded like it should’ve been a single. The opening lyrics “Come with me/Come with me/It’s the time now/”, sounded like the perfect invitation to go on the musical journey the song takes you on.
Lou Barlow, the bass player for Dinosaur Jr., sang for a couple of songs on the album, which was a pleasant surprise and a break from the Mascis’s deep, rumbly voice. Barlow’s voice was clear and high on “Recognition”, one of the album’s less distorted songs. The beginning guitar parts were similar to “London Calling” by the Clash and in the middle of the song, one can hear faint laughter and mumbling, giving it a lo-fi quality.
All in all, the entire album was very enjoyable. The extended guitar solos, heavy distortion and feedback all complemented Mascis’s gritty voice incredibly well. After more than 25 years together, Dinosaur Jr. is still composing great music together and this latest album is a testament to that.