Songs: Ohia: Magnolia Electric Co.
(Secretly Canadian, 2003)
Jason Molina was the best songwriter of the 2000s, and Magnolia Electric Co remains not only his finest work, but stands as a beacon of modern American storytelling. Fifteen years down the road, this album still burns with an eternal flame. It begins dim: “The whole place is dark/Every light on this side of the town/Suddenly it all went down/Now we’ll all be brothers of the fossil fire of the sun/Now we will all be sisters of the fossil blood of the moon,” and it ends as the “lonesome whistle whine.”
The lyrics are dark, the songs heartbreakingly expressive, and the including some wonderful guest vocals by English singer-songwriter Scout Niblett and country artist Lawrence Peters. It’s also a transitional album, on the way from Molina’s lo-fi origins under the moniker Songs: Ohia to a fuller, working-class band sound as Magnolia Electric Co. Whatever he named his projects, Molina had a tight grip on the American music mythology, which he closely intertwined with his Rust Belt surroundings.
Such were his personal demons part of the geographical landscape he knew so well: the abandoned factories, the dismal towns, the taste of gasoline and the odor of hopelessness, as he was writing about a people, a culture and a landscape torn between rural downfall and post-industrial struggle.
Jason Molina dug deep in the darkest corners of the human mind. He wrote 21st century blues about crossroads and back highways, shadows and ghosts, the moon above and hell below. He unveiled the loneliness inside our hearts and the emptiness that surrounds us. And he did so with a clear vision and a beating heart that bled clear through his shirt and dripped into ours.
In March 2013, the world lost a original voice – and his peer has yet to be found.