Songs: Ohia

SXSW Records

Phases and Stages

Songs: Ohia

The Magnolia Electric Co. (Secretly Canadian) In the liner notes of The Magnolia Electric Co., Jason Molina, lone regular of Bloomington, Indiana's Songs: Ohia, writes, "This isn't a good time, and everybody knows it." Straight off, the tone is set: This is a response to the fucked-up state of our country and the world. As if compelled to say something and be heard, this album is louder, harder. Lap steel wails over surging beats, instrumentation is thicker, vocals more urgent than plaintive, dialogues of personal loss replaced by a reaching out to a largely absent humanity. Macabre images adorn the CD's insert, tension between life and destruction spelled out in birds, skulls, flowers, and a broken heart. One could make too much of the social implications of the art if the music didn't corroborate it. Take "Farewell Transmission": "Mama, here comes midnight with the dead moon in its jaws. Must be the big star about to fall." This along with repeated entreaties to "Listen!" Movement and change are running themes, the road depicted both as a means and end, trial and deliverance. Even when Molina gives up the mic, as he does on "Old Black Hen" to Lawrence Peters and "Peoria Lunch Box Blues" to Scout Niblett, despair and need are directed outward. There are personal moments, of course -- this is a Songs: Ohia LP, after all. Even they stretch further from the individual soul toward the common need. An excellent, bracing, work from Jason Molina and company. (Buffalo Billiards, Saturday, March 15, midnight)

***.5

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