This is sad, as the passing of beloved musicians always is, but for some reason this one’s hitting me harder than most. I’ve got some broader reflections up at The Daily Banter, which I hope you’ll read, but since a friend who knows more than I do about non-rap music asked me for some entry points to Molina’s catalogue today, I thought I’d also republish here what I sent to him, for anyone wondering what the fuss is about:
He was brilliant, and probably every americana quasi-rock quasi-indie minimally-hippie revivalist act you and I enjoy these days owes him a significant debt of influence. I discovered him in the form of Magnolia Electric Co’s What Comes After The Blues, which my brother-in-law put me onto just as I was starting college. That’s where most of my favorite songs are from: The Dark Don’t Hide It is probably my very favorite, though it may set your expectations inappropriately, as most of his output doesn’t have the edge and grime and snarl of that song. Hammer Down and Northstar Blues from that same record are also amazing, as is Leave The City. And the other half of the album too. Just go get that damn record.
What I loved about him, beyond the fluttering, overburdened-mule dignity of his voice, was the imagery he used. The economy of language in his songs. The evocative diction. “I think the stars are just the neon lights/Shining through the dance floor/Shining through the dance floor/Of heaven on a Saturday night" is pretty damn good on its own, but then you sling it atop that already-struggling mule and it crackles and shudders and breaks into this crushingly beautiful moment, not just of visual imagery but of depressed thought. You imagine someone imagining that and despairing at it and — probably, given the hook — eating a gun. Ditto for "The earth was empty on the day that they made it/But heaven needed some place to throw all the shit" and "Something held me down & made me make a promise" from Dark Don’t Hide It. It’s breathtaking stuff, of the sadsack variety sure, but no less beautiful for its darkness.
MEC’s most recent album was written in the shadow of another death in the band. It never managed to take up permanent residence in my brain like WCATB, but Josephine has some stunners too: “An Arrow In The Gale” could be 3x as long, for me. “O! Grace,” “Ten Paces,” and “The Handing Down” all great too. (Can’t find YT links for those, sorry.)
Further reading includes the Songs: Ohia album Magnolia Electric Company, “Farewell Transmission" in particular, which he liked so much he changed the band’s name to it. His solo stuff doesn’t stick with me as much, as it’s far more sparse, but Let Me Go Let Me Go Let Me Go is a pretty great record too if you can’t get enough of Molina. Which I hope you can’t, even though we won’t get any more, ever again. Fuck everything. Hopefully he’s forming a band with Alex Chilton and they’re calling itShuffled Off and they’re going to refine rhapsodical sorrow to its Platonic ideal, and have that waiting for us when we die too. “Happy Monday!” is what I’m trying to say.