Tag Archives: Magnolia Electric Co.

Aaron’s Top Albums Of 2007

Joel Plaskett Emergency's Ashtray Rock

Joel Plaskett Emergency’s Ashtray Rock

This is my official Top 10 album list for 2007:

10. Magnolia Electric Co. The Black Ram

Picking just The Black Ram was a bit of a technical cheat as this record was part of the three-album, one-EP Sojourner box set Magnolia Electric Co. released that year. That said, of the four discs it’s definitely the one I listened to the most. In fact, the title track, “Will-O-The-Wisp” and “A Little At A Time” all rank in my Top 25 most played songs in iTunes. What this all probably means is that because I was pretty deep in my Magnolia fandom at the time, as a conscious act to not look like such a fanatic I ranked this album lower than I felt it deserved in my heart. In truth it’s probably a top five record.

9. Arctic Monkeys Favourite Worst Nightmare

If I’m to be completely honest, I still don’t feel I know this album all that well. I was mostly enamored with the song “505” and had approached the band with more open ears on this album because the hype train for the Monkeys had receded to the point it where wasn’t annoying anymore.

8. Two Hours Traffic Little Jabs

I listened to this record a lot for a month or two and it fits solidly in a Can-Rockpop lineage that includes Sloan, By Divine Right, Limblifter, Zuckerbaby and their ilk. Since then, though, Two Hours Traffic have become extremely irritating to me. This is because of the disproportionate amount of times iTunes tries to play their songs when I’m listening in “random” mode. I have thousands upon thousands of songs. I’ve got the full Neil Young and Bob Dylan discographies. And yet, with peculiar frequency iTunes tries to serve me up songs from this album. The only reason I can guess for this is that one of the band members had a computer engineer cousin who worked at Apple and was in the department that developed the iTunes random algorithm. It’s the only explanation and it’s definitely tempered my enjoyment.

7. Buck 65 Situation

Buck 65 seems to suffer from a bit of Rodney Dangerfield can’t-get-no-respect-ism and Situation is a pretty good example of this. A concept album focused roughly around the year 1957, the songs on Situation deftly traverse topics like crooked cops, Bogart and obscenity trials. The fact that the subject matter is so unlikely — not just for a rapper, but for any type of modern music maker — just makes Situation all the more intriguing.

6. Neil Young Live At Massey Hall 1971

This show may represent the most perfect version of “solo Neil.” It’s a historic document and a brilliant setlist. In cold scrutiny, though, it’s probably not a best of 2007 album. This ranking probably says more about how much I’m willing to jockey parameters because of my Neil love than anything else.

5. Jens Lekman Night Falls Over Kortedala

Night Falls Over Kortedala is an entirely fine album, but this #5 rank is almost entirely attributable to one song, “And I Remember Every Kiss.” A soaring orchestral ballad, the song captures all the fire, all the intensity, all the passion of that nervous, electric first kiss.

4. Cuff The Duke Sidelines Of The City

Someone recently told me Wayne Petti basically tries to copy The Inbreds’ Mike O’Neill when he’s singing. Fascinating, right? And it explains why I like Cuff The Duke. I don’t listen to this album anymore, though, and I don’t remember why I had it ranked so high.

3. Feist The Reminder

The sort of person who can remain unmoved by “My Moon My Man” is the sort of person I would look upon with great suspicion.

2. Amy Winehouse Back To Black

“Me & Mr. Jones” was really what hooked me on Back To Black. Here was this jazz singer going on about Slick Rick, plus ones and “fuckery” (which has since become a core swear word for me), all with an air of stumbling, drunken tragic romance. I was won over immediately.

A lot of the songs and albums and artists I love have something I’ll define as “turbulence of the soul.” The world, for them, is just a bit tougher, a bit more painful and a bit more difficult than it is for the normals. It was clear from the first listen of Back To Black that Winehouse was one of these people and it reflects beautifully/uncomfortably in these songs.

1. Joel Plaskett Emergency Ashtray Rock

A teenage love triangle that breaks up the band and breaks up a friendship. It seems like such a small narrative to build a concept album around, but Ashtray Rock, like a less morbid Quadrophenia, works perfectly. You feel there when the drunk teenagers party down at the Ashtray Rock and when you’ve got nothing more to say to these people… well, it’s like a grayscale closing scene capturing the back of the jean-jacketed protagonist walking down a slushy sidestreet. Alone.

Other album lists…

2015 Top Ten — SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart is #1
2014 Top Ten — Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There is #1
2013 Top Ten — M.I.A.’s Matangi is #1
2012 Top Ten — Dirty Ghosts’ Metal Moon is #1
2011 Top Ten — Timber Timbre’s Creep On Creepin’ On is #1
2010 Top Ten — The Black Angels’ Phosphene Dream is #1
2009 Top Ten — Gallows’ Grey Britain is #1
2008 Top Ten — Portishead’s Third is #1
2007 Top Ten — Joel Plaskett Emergency’s Ashtray Rock is #1
2006 Top Ten — My Brightest Diamond’s Bring Me The Workhorse is #1
2005 Top Ten — Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Howl is #1
2004 Top Ten — Morrissey’s You Are The Quarry is #1
2003 Top Ten — The Dears’ No Cities Left is #1
2002 Top Ten — Archive’s You All Look The Same To Me is #1
2001 Top Ten — Gord Downie’s Coke Machine Glow is #1
2000 Top Ten — Songs: Ohia’s The Lioness is #1
1999 Top Ten — The Boo Radleys’ Kingsize is #1
1998 Top Ten — Baxter’s Baxter is #1
1996 Top Ten — Tricky’s Maxinquaye is #1

4 Comments

Filed under Music

Songs: Ohia And The Working Man Blues

Jason Molina of Songs: Ohia

Jason Molina of Songs: Ohia

Songwriter Jason Molina Restlessly Searches For The Unknown

Belching steel mill smokestacks, sooty coal mining towns, busting cities. These are images that define the working man, the simple man. They’re all well-known, easy to understand images.

But while most of the proletariat live these images by trudging along, scraping together their day’s wage, occasionally a few starry-eyed poets manage to escape from that drudgery. These poets are always restless, always searching for more. Jason Molina, the brains and voice behind Songs: Ohia is one of them.

Songs: Ohia records — of which there are at least 11 of them depending on how you count — are defined by this sense of scraping through life. They’re about simple themes: loneliness, restlessness, change. They’re lullabies for the working class.

“I don’t know where that comes from,” says Molina. “It has always followed me. I know that it has something to do with people knowing where I grew up — Northern Ohio in a steel manufacturing town, a shipbuilding town. And in southwestern Virginia, which is sort of a coal mining kind of world.

“It absolutely informed every word out of my mouth. Either in songs or just in my day to day life outside of music.”

Molina’s world is one filled with dark adventure, a scowling, nomadic existence. Despite the roadblocks of an impoverished upbringing, Molina got into fancy art school Oberlin College. He then met up with the Secretly Canadian record label as well as like-minded musical souls Will Oldham, Arab Strap, Cat Power, Steve Albini and assorted other indie record store idols.

The latest album, The Magnolia Electric Co., is the closest Molina has ever come to a populist recording. Loaded with tales of love and those same workmanlike images that inform his world, for this one Molina employs a rollicking backing band. The Bob Seger-esque result is quite unlike the darkly atmospheric Ghost Tropic, the urgent balladry of The Lioness or the Crazy Horse-inspired live album Mi Sei Apparso Come Un Fantasma.

For a man who’s obsessed with the theme of change, there’s one constant that runs through Magnolia and literally every song Songs: Ohia has ever recorded: loneliness. We’re not talking about a transparent, girl-left-me emo loneliness, but a soul-deep world-weary melancholy.

“I hadn’t consciously tried to put that in there,” says Molina. “But reflecting on the material on that record, I think it’s more working through loneliness when you’re surrounded by people who love you and respect you. Somehow this feeling that there’s something you’re not able to take away from situations where you’re physically not lonely, but somehow you feel that you’re not able to take what people are giving you.”

At the risk of playing amateur psychiatrist, that sense of incomplete has a root cause in one thing: travel. Molina’s furious touring and non-stop hopscotching from town to town have permanently infused his outlook with a sense of wanderlust. But it’s that very same wanderlust that makes each new piece of Songs: Ohia music exciting.

“I move around a lot. I’ve never been able to settle down. Maybe I’m part gypsy or something,” says Molina. “I don’t mean to be, because I certainly love places. Even if I’m there for a night or a day being on tour. Since I’ve been on tour for a long time I’ve moved quite a bit. Before I was a touring musician I really had to earn to absorb as much as I could, good or bad, from a place while I was there instead of always worrying about the final resting place. Maybe there’s not going to be a final settling down for me.”

With that, Molina then tries to count the different locations he’s lived.

“I’d say maybe 20 places easily. Twenty different towns. Right now I’m in southern Indiana, a town that’s just outside of Indianapolis called Bloomington. Indiana University is here. It’s also where Secretly Canadian is. But tomorrow morning I’m leaving for a big European tour and when I get back I’ll be moving again… to parts unknown.

Songs: Ohia “The Big Game Is Every Night”
from The Magnolia Electric Co., 10th anniversary edition

This story originally appeared in the May 2003, #146 issue of Chart Magazine.

Leave a comment

Filed under Music, Recollections

R.I.P. Jason Molina

Jason Molina

Jason Molina

On March 16 the man who we named this site after, Jason Molina, leader of Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co, passed away due to organ failure.

It’s been a pretty huge bummer to the Risky Fuel household considering the many, many hours we’ve spent with his music over the years.

I wrote an obituary on Molina which you can find over at Spinner. For one that’s a little deeper and more meaningful, do consider checking out our sister site Awesometism.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Music, Shameless Promotion

Aaron’s Top Albums Of 2005

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

This is my official Top 10 album list for 2005:

1. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club Howl
2. Kid Dakota The West Is The Future
3. Magnolia Electric Co What Comes After The Blues
4. The Raveonettes Pretty In Black
5. Mando Diao Hurricane Bar
6. The Bees Free The Bees
7. The Coral The Invisible Invasion
8. Dead Meadows Feathers
9. Buck 65 Secret House Against The World
10. Ladytron The Witching Hour

When I look back on this list I find it very satisfying because I still like almost everything on it. It’s the order that’s probably imperfect.

Looking back, putting Black Rebel Motorcycle Club‘s Howl at number one feels a bit like an act of style over substance. I mean, at the time they were super-cool, and still are to me, but Howl, the album, is one I rarely go back to despite having a number of great songs on it. In hindsight, this is probably a low top ten choice now.

Kid Dakota‘s The West Is The Future remains a brilliant, magnetic work for me. This dark narrative album takes you on a number of journeys — all articulated with thematic album art by Will Schaff — which leave you more than just a little bit unsettled. I’m not sure why Kid Dakota has remained so relatively unknown. Maybe it’s having recorded on small labels, maybe how intense the songs are (it’s clear to me most people don’t like intense… unless it’s by Bruce Springsteen or Thom Yorke), nonetheless, this album deserves to be heard. (Also, while writing this Sarah just reminded me that we once had a theory that this was Bill Priddle having secretly recorded a “crazy” album to free himself from his past.)

My love for Jason Molina’s music is well documented on this site and Magnolia Electric Co‘s What Comes After The Blues dutifully filled that spot in my heart for something new from him at the time. I know these songs off by heart from having listened to this album and the various live bootlegs of it non-stop, but it’s not the MEC/Songs: Ohia album I reach for first despite having songs I adore like “Hard To Love A Man,” “The Night Shift Lullaby” and “Northstar Blues.” Maybe it’s so much in me I don’t need to listen to it all the time.

Man, between The Raveonettes, BRMC, & MEC there was a lot of magic records happening at this time. I’ve definitely cooled on The Raveonettes recent recordings but this remains a pretty solid set.

If there’s anyone on this list that gets the Rodney Dangerfield no-respect treatment it’d be Mando Diao and their Hurricane Bar album. In fact, it wasn’t until writing this that I even realized I hadn’t imported the album into my iTunes. That’s probably a fair indicator that Hurricane Bar should be lower than it is, but something in the back of my head says no. I’m going to listen to it right now and consider it… annnd… alright, in a post-Strokes world it’s still pretty great. And because I haven’t listened to it in so long it’s like discovering a new album.

The Bees Free The Bees. The world is stupid for not knowing and loving this band and “Chicken Payback” is the best rock ‘n’ roll dance/party/Animal House song of the last 10 years. With a brilliant video that pre-dates “Gangnam Style” by years.

I still really like The Coral and feel they’ve made some amazing singles over the course of their discography, but I’m less invested in The Invisible Invasion than I used to be. I think perhaps my love of this album had something to do with grasping at the last wave of great Brit-pop and yearning for those days of Oasis, Blur, Supergrass and the like.

Dead Meadows Feathers. I don’t really feel this album any more. This one’s clearly a trend record that got lumped in-between BRMC and Raveonettes. I haven’t ripped it into my iTunes either and feel far less urgency to do so. I still like “At Her Open Door’ though.

Is Buck 65 still underground? He works at the CBC after all. And he was on a major label. That’s probably technically above-ground, but he still remains remarkably bold and avant. Secret House Against The World
is the album he made with Tortoise while in that I-hate-hip-hop period he had. The album has aged incredibly well and I still enjoy listening to it, but some of his future experiments were even more interesting to me, so this one suffers a bit not against its 2005 competition, but against Buck’s own discography.

When Ladytron first broke they were the shit with their coquette Depeche Mode thing. For The Witching Hour they dropped that act for a Sisters Of Mercy-girl goth electro thing. This hits a lot of my buttons, but upon relistening the songs aren’t quite there and if I had to redo this list this album would be at risk of being bumped.

Other album lists…

2015 Top Ten — SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart is #1
2014 Top Ten — Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There is #1
2013 Top Ten — M.I.A.’s Matangi is #1
2012 Top Ten — Dirty Ghosts’ Metal Moon is #1
2011 Top Ten — Timber Timbre’s Creep On Creepin’ On is #1
2010 Top Ten — The Black Angels’ Phosphene Dream is #1
2009 Top Ten — Gallows’ Grey Britain is #1
2008 Top Ten — Portishead’s Third is #1
2007 Top Ten — Joel Plaskett Emergency’s Ashtray Rock is #1
2006 Top Ten — My Brightest Diamond’s Bring Me The Workhorse is #1
2005 Top Ten — Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Howl is #1
2004 Top Ten — Morrissey’s You Are The Quarry is #1
2003 Top Ten — The Dears’ No Cities Left is #1
2002 Top Ten — Archive’s You All Look The Same To Me is #1
2001 Top Ten — Gord Downie’s Coke Machine Glow is #1
2000 Top Ten — Songs: Ohia’s The Lioness is #1
1999 Top Ten — The Boo Radleys’ Kingsize is #1
1998 Top Ten — Baxter’s Baxter is #1
1996 Top Ten — Tricky’s Maxinquaye is #1

4 Comments

Filed under Music, Recollections

Aaron’s Top Albums Of 2003

The Dears No Cities Left

The Dears No Cities Left

This is my official Top 10 album list for 2003:

1. The Dears No Cities Left
2. Songs: Ohia The Magnolia Electric Co
3. Metric Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?
4. The Coral Magic And Medicine
5. Sixteen Horsepower Olden
6. Danko Jones We Sweat Blood
7. Gord Downie Battle Of The Nudes
8. The Organ Sinking Hearts
9. Radiohead Hail To The Thief
10. Geoff Berner We Shall Not Flag Or Fail, We Shall Go On To The End

I must say, this is a mighty great year.

My #1 record this year was No Cities Left and it still holds up just as well all this time later. “Lost In The Plot” was the big single, a signature song which I love, but it was the double-shot epic tracks “Expect The Worse/Cuz She’s A Tourist” and “Pinned Together, Falling Apart” which really did it for me. They’re epic, sophisticated and they rock, all while maintaining their uniquely “Dears” narratives. These two songs done live at the time were particularly amazing, as they’d get stretched out into trance-like adventures. “Don’t Lose The Faith,” “Warm And Sunny Days,” “Never Destroy Us”… I know these songs inside out. Within the confines of “Canadian rock” or “Canadian indie” or whatever descriptive you want to use this remains one of the best records of the last decade.

The Dears “Pinned Together, Falling Apart”:

It would’ve been a heated internal debate for me at the time to put Songs: Ohia The Magnolia Electric Co. at #2. This was the transition record where Jason Molina, the mostly one-man band as Songs: Ohia became Magnolia Electric Co., a down-to-earth trucker-rock band in the vein of Crazy Horse. The change was weird to take at first, but over time the songs on this album emerged and they’re heart-striking works. There’s an internal struggle going on in this album that’s both intimately personal and universal to the human experience.

I love the playing around with the classic song trope of John Henry doing something. Songs: Ohia “John Henry Split My Heart”:

Ah, Metric’s Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? We were so young and innocent and unaware of Emily Haines’ prickly fits back then. It was all about dancing along to “Dead Disco” late at night. If time had stopped and Metric never did anything else ever the world would’ve probably been a better place.

Metric “Dead Disco”:

The Coral’s Magic And Medicine remains a totally slept on record here in the North of America. This record’s so hard to define. It’s sort of triangulated by the works of The Boo Radleys and Space, but at the same time remain totally outside of their worlds.

The Coral “Talking Gypsy Market Blues,” their slight Dylan return:

Clearly 2003 was the year I finally understood Sixteen Horsepower. Olden was a compilation record made up of a few different EPs, which usually makes for uneven listening, but I was completely shook and I now follow the works of band leader David Eugene Edwards closely. Olden is also one of the records that has helped me become more self-aware about the music I like. It’s not necessarily about genre anymore, but rather about intensity, purpose, gravity. I no longer care about half-measures and comfortable singalong songs. If I can’t see through to your soul in your music you’re just a circus performer.

Sixteen Horsepower “American Wheeze”:

It takes a lot for me to consider a song a match for the best of the Thin Lizzy catalog, but for simple balls-out rockers Danko Jones’ “I Love Living In The City” from We Sweat Blood is right up there.

Danko Jones “I Love Living In The City”:

My affection for Gord Downie’s solo work would continue with Battle Of The Nudes. It wasn’t quite the speak-to-me album that Coke Machine Glow was, but I still consider it a bold and brave work, complete with Sonic Youth moments and weird punk diversions. Downie could easily play out his career doing cash register rock in The Tragically Hip, but he continues to go for it. These are the ideals I respect in musicians.

Gord Downie “Pascal’s Submarine.” Not my favourite track on the record, but this album’s not well-youtubed.

I’m kinda bummed The Organ didn’t quite rule the world like I thought they would, but Sinking Hearts is still solid in a hey-it’s-the-girl-Smiths way. Haters on this EP were weird. It may not be perfect but it’s got passion.

Radiohead Hail To The Thief at #9? I think I let myself be run over by the hype train on this one. I never listen to Radiohead anymore and if I do, it’s certainly not this album.

Geoff Berner We Shall Not Flag Or Fail, We Shall Go On To The End was a pretty unexpected inclusion for me because, well, let’s face it, I’m not known as a klezmer-punk kinda guy. How We Shall Not Flag gets me is with the storytelling. “Volcano God” is brilliant and beautiful and “Maginot Line” is a valuable life lesson.

Geoff Berner “Maginot Line”:

Other album lists…

2015 Top Ten — SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart is #1
2014 Top Ten — Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There is #1
2013 Top Ten — M.I.A.’s Matangi is #1
2012 Top Ten — Dirty Ghosts’ Metal Moon is #1
2011 Top Ten — Timber Timbre’s Creep On Creepin’ On is #1
2010 Top Ten — The Black Angels’ Phosphene Dream is #1
2009 Top Ten — Gallows’ Grey Britain is #1
2008 Top Ten — Portishead’s Third is #1
2007 Top Ten — Joel Plaskett Emergency’s Ashtray Rock is #1
2006 Top Ten — My Brightest Diamond’s Bring Me The Workhorse is #1
2005 Top Ten — Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Howl is #1
2004 Top Ten — Morrissey’s You Are The Quarry is #1
2003 Top Ten — The Dears’ No Cities Left is #1
2002 Top Ten — Archive’s You All Look The Same To Me is #1
2001 Top Ten — Gord Downie’s Coke Machine Glow is #1
2000 Top Ten — Songs: Ohia’s The Lioness is #1
1999 Top Ten — The Boo Radleys’ Kingsize is #1
1998 Top Ten — Baxter’s Baxter is #1
1996 Top Ten — Tricky’s Maxinquaye is #1

5 Comments

Filed under Music, Recollections

Jason Molina Is Alive

Jason Molina

Jason Molina

Two years ago Jason Molina, the leader of Magnolia Electric Co./Songs: Ohia and titular inspiration for this site, disappeared.

Considering Molina’s prolific recording history and road warrior touring ethic, the totality of his vanishing act had a profoundly disturbing effect on his fans. In the Magnolia Electric Co bulletin board there were vague allusions to some serious health issues, but mostly there was uncomfortable silence punctuated by the occasional “Where’s Jason?”

Now we know why. Molina has surfaced. Sort of. And the reason for his time away has become clear, according to a statement from the Molina family:

Many of you have inquired as to Jason’s whereabouts and well-being since he canceled his tours with Will Johnson in 2009.  Over the last two years Jason has been in and out of rehab facilities and hospitals in England, Chicago, Indianapolis, and New Orleans.  It has been a very trying time for Jason, his friends, and his family.  Although no one can be sure what the future holds, we feel very encouraged by the recent steps Jason has taken on the road towards becoming healthy and productive once again.  Unfortunately, because he has no medical insurance, he has accrued substantial medical bills.  We are asking all friends of Jason’s music to come together with a showing of financial support for him.  Please consider a contribution to his medical fund.  Feel free to forward this to any and all appropriate parties.  We are hoping to raise whatever funds we possibly can for Jason.  He is currently working on a farm in West Virginia raising goats and chickens for the next year or so, and is looking forward to making great music again.  Please also show your support and well wishes by sending letters and postcards to:

Jason Molina
P.O. Box 423
Beaver, WV 25813

If you do not wish to use paypal, please make donations out to Ashley Lawson at the same address.

With our sincere thanks, The Molina Family

It’s not like Molina fans couldn’t see the cry for help barely sublimated in his music — “The Dark Don’t Hide It” from What Comes After The Blues, the line “while you’ve been busy cryin’ about my past mistakes, I’ve been busy trying to make a change…” from the song “I’ve Been Riding With The Ghost,” the confessional descent into depression that is the whole Didn’t It Rain album.

Now, I may be destitute and marginally employed myself, but I think it’s only fair that I help how I can considering how much Molina’s music has given me over the years. If you’re a Molina fan, consider doing so, too.

1 Comment

Filed under Music, Relationships

What I Call Music Podcast Is Now Up

What I Call Music

What I Call Music

A couple weeks ago I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down to record a podcast for What I Call Music, the home base for my good friend and one of the most musically knowledgeable cats on the planet, Paul Kehayas.

We ended up talking for a verrrrrrrrrrrrryyy long time, so Paul had one helluva time shrinking it down to something of a dignified length, but for anyone curious I think it’s solidly entertaining. As such, if you’re bored, please give ‘er a listen HERE.

Some of the things we discussed were:

* The origin of the name Risky Fuel.
* Sloan still being credible 20 years later.
* Songs: Ohia/Magnolia Electric Co./Jason Molina.
* How I used to make my own music charts as a kid and my related favourite song of 1988.
* The infamous story of seeing Brian Jonestown Massacre play in a bush at the Wilderbeat Festival during the Blackout of 2003.
* The cultural awareness built by discovering The Clash’s Sandinista album.

The playlist includes: Songs: Ohia, Black Sabbath, Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Clash and Raphael Saadiq.

1 Comment

Filed under Concerts, Recollections, Shameless Promotion, The Misadventures Of