Finesse in neo-realism…
One of Jason Molina’s more varied offerings...
Jason Molina, the man behind Magnolia Electric Co. and Songs: Ohia, is never going to release an upbeat pop album, full of chart-friendly riffs and drum loops, but a few changes are afoot.
Just as Oasis will never cause a fan to die of shock when listening to their new album for the first time, Molina’s various antics over 13 years of making records have all had a certain, intangible feel to them, ensuring that once you’ve fallen in love with one of his albums, you want all of them.
Molina’s last outing, 2007’s ‘Sojourner’ - a four CD boxset comprising four sessions’ worth of material - showcased both sides of his output: some of the material was given the full, country-rock band workout, while other songs sounded like the more muted and fragile compositions found on his solo albums, ‘Pyramid Electric Co’ and ‘Let Me Go, Let Me Go, Let Me Go’. However, looking back now, it seems that releasing so much in one go served as a line being drawn under the early years of the MEC era, as a slight (but significant) shift in direction has followed.
‘Josephine’ is one of the best things Jason Molina has ever done, and certainly the best to bear the Magnolia Electric Co. moniker. In part, the album serves as a tribute to MEC bassist, Evan Farrell, who died in 2007, and had already played his part in the construction of some of these songs. Perhaps surprisingly, in light of this information, ‘Josephine’ actually reveals itself to be one of Molina’s more musically varied offerings.
Opener, ‘O! Grace’ features both a communal singalong chorus and one of the few socially acceptable saxophone breaks in modern music, while ‘The Rock Of Ages’, greatly expanded from its appearance on the recent ‘It’s Made Me Cry’ EP, is pure Sunday morning soul. The title track returns to more familiar territory, shuddering into life with the crashing drums and jagged guitar format so well employed on 2004’s ‘What Comes After The Blues’, but the elongated guitar solos and bluesy chug of old seem consigned to history. ‘Little Sad Eyes’ even opens with a swaggering organ refrain.
Largely recorded with the whole band playing together live, and engineered by long-time collaborator Steve Albini, ‘Josephine’ could well be the album that ensures Molina’s legacy endures.
Words: Gareth James
Magnolia Electric Co.