Posts Tagged ‘Ohio’

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The Sonder Bombs will follow their great 2018 debut album “Modern Female Rockstar” with “Clothbound” on 1/29, and the singles find them taking their ukulele-fuelled indie-pop punk in all kinds of exciting new directions. The Sonder Bombs have doubled down on their second record. 2018’s debut “Modern Female Rockstar” was their first bet: an all-caps attack against a male-dominated scene brandishing a ukulele and dry wit as chosen weapons. A year and some change passed, where the Cleveland band’s relentless touring ethic and tough love caused a homegrown fan base to explode worldwide. Clothbound, like the title suggests, weaves a different narrative—one of loss, letting go, and losing patience with losers. If the first record introduced unapologetic sensitivity, Clothbound searches for the root causes of other key elements.

Produced in Philadelphia during quarantine with Joe Reinhart (Hop Along, Beach Bunny, Modern Baseball), “Clothbound” captures a band burning at both ends. Fans of vocalist/ukulele/guitarist Willow Hawks’ exasperated kiss-offs will have plenty to unpack here, from the frantic goodbyes spat through “Swing on Sight” or “What Are Friends For,” where Hawks entertains this question while the background smoulders around the punctuation—a ukulele strum here, Willow Hawks’ vocal line trailing like an asteroid collision there. As this is the second volume in the Sondie songbook, evolved moments, like the acoustic-electric elegy “Scattered,” sit near the band at their most sloganeering and effective. “Crying is Cool” a live staple eagerly awaiting its reveal, teaches listeners of all ages that it’s okay to hole up with your feelings as long as you give them room to grow. The band’s also not afraid of taking their own advice, letting their emotions run wild on “k.,” an absolute barnstormer of a track where the Bombs fire off all cylinders while winking to hardcore and metal. The chips are down and the deck is stacked here. The band’s all in. Are you? 

releases January 29th, 2021

The Sonder Bombs “k.” From their album “Clothbound” Out January 29th via Take This To Heart Records/Big Scary Monsters (UK/EU)/Dew Process (AUZ/NZ)

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Our fully quarantine-recorded album came out, called “The Black Hole Understands” It’s me on instruments with strings and singing, Jayson on drums. it is poppy and sort of sad. Cloud Nothings released The Black Hole Understands this summer, a remotely assembled album that followed the free-jazz spirals of frontman Dylan Baldi and drummer Jayson Gerycz in the spring. Then, in December, they shared the Bandcamp-exclusive “Life Is Only One Event”. Soon, they’ll deliver the all-new “The Shadow I Remember” which was produced by Steve Albini, who helmed 2012’s classic Attack on Memory

Part of the proceeds from this will be going to play on Philly and the Rainey institute (in Cleveland), two organizations dedicated to helping provide arts education in areas of Philladelphia and Cleveland where its not generally easy to access.

Cloud Nothings dropped a new song “The Spirit Of,” and it’s the latest glimpse of their forthcoming album The Shadow I Remember, out on February 26th via Carpark Records. “The Spirit Of,” the follow-up single to “Am I Something?,” is a fast-paced track propelled by ascendent guitars, and Dylan Baldi’s punk vocals reach a mighty peak by the end. We are also reissuing our debut album “Turning On” – can’t believe it’s been 10 years since it was originally released! 

Another throwback was Baldi’s return to constant song writing à la the early solo days, which led to the nearly 30 demos that became the 11 songs on “The Shadow I Remember”. Instead of sticking to a tried-but-true formula, his song writing stretched out while digging deeper into his melodic talents. “I felt like I was locked in a character,” Baldi says of becoming a reliable supplier of heavy, hook-filled rock songs. “I felt like I was playing a role and not myself. I really didn’t like that role.” More frequent writing led to the freedom in form heard on The Shadow I Remember. What he can’t do alone is get loud and play noisily, which is exactly what happened when the entire band — bassist TJ Duke, guitarist Chris Brown, and drummer Jayson Gerycz—convened.

The band had more fun in the studio than they’ve had in years, playing in their signature, pulverizing way, while also trying new things. The absurdly catchy “Nothing Without You” includes a first for the band: Macie Stewart of Ohmme contributes guest vocals. Elsewhere, celebrated electronic composer Brett Naucke adds subtle synthesizer parts.

The songs are kept trim, mostly around the three-minute mark, while being gleefully overstuffed. Almost every musical part turns into at least two parts, with guitar and drums opening up and the bass switching gears. “That’s the goal — I want the three-minute song to be an epic,” Baldi says. “That’s the short version of the longass jam.”

Lyrically, Baldi delivers an aching exploration of tortured existence, punishing self-doubt, and the familiar pangs of oppressive mystery. “Am I Something” Baldi screams on the song of the same name. “Does anybody living out there really need me?”, It’s a heart breaking admission of existential confusion, delivered hoarsely, with an instantly relatable melody. “Is this the end/ of the life I’ve known?” he asks on lead single and album opener “Oslo.” “Am I older now/ or am I just another age?” Despite the questioning lyrics, the band plays with more assurance and joy than ever before. The Shadow I Remember announces Cloud Nothings’ second decade and it sounds like a new beginning.

“The Spirit Of” is taken from Cloud Nothings’ forthcoming album “The Shadow I Remember”, out February 26th, 2021.

Arlo McKinley has washed his songs in the blood of street soul, country, punk and gospel – and tattooed them onto the underground.
Filled with an honest weight and gritty-hope from rustbelt city life, McKinley rolled downriver to Memphis’ Sun Studio where Grammy Award-winning producer Matt Ross-Spang gathered a working man’s all-star band to record his Oh Boy Records debut,

Look, an album about Midwestern ennui delivered by a guy in his 30s was almost focus-grouped to appeal to me, a Midwesterner with ennui in his 30s, but Arlo McKinley’s Oh Boy Records debut belongs on this list for the greatness of its song writing, and the way that it captures the various stages of Midwestern Grief in all its forms. John Prine left us this year, but at least his label has artists who can fill the sizable gap in our lives. 

Had Jody Prine not played his late father singer songwriter John Prine a couple of McKinley’s songs, there’s every chance 40-year-old Cincinnati singer songwriter Arlo McKinley would have given up on music entirely and still be delivering tuxedos. However, John was particularly taken with Bag Of Pills and, as a result, McKinley became the last artist Prine and his son signed to their label before the former’s death.

The solo debut (he previously released a 2014 live album as frontman with The Lonesome Sound) opens with the understated strum of We Were Alright, a number that starts out as an upbeat road song about driving with his girl and how “for the first time in a long time we were alright”, only to play the dream within a dream card as he wakes to realise they’ve broken up and tries to get back to the dream to be close to her again.

McKinley’s 10 original songs bleed truth from a heart scarred by wild nights and redeemed by Sunday morning confessions. “She’s Always Around,” “Suicidal Saturday Night,” “Bag of Pills” and “Ghost” are all carved out in the key of life.

Drums & Percussion: Ken Coomer Bass Guitar: Dave Smith
Keys: Rick Steff
Electric Guitar: Will Sexton Acoustic Guitars: Matt Ross-Spang Fiddle: Jessie Munson
BGVS: Reba Russell
Acoustic Guitar/Vocals: Arlo McKinley Released August 14th, 2020

Cloud Nothings was founded in a Cleveland basement, the one-man recording project of Dylan Baldi. Prolific from the startBaldi’s early work was rough but immediate: crudely recorded, spring-loaded spasms of Buzzcocks-informed pop that quickly found an online following among the lo-fi-inclined. For a band that resists repeating itself, picking up lessons from a decade prior is the strange route Cloud Nothings took to create their most fully-realized album. Their new record, The Shadow I Remember, marks eleven years of touring, a return to early song writing practices, and revisiting the studio where they first recorded together. In a way not previously captured, this album expertly combines the group’s pummelling, aggressive approach with singer-songwriter Dylan Baldi’s extraordinary talent for perfect pop. To document this newly realized maturity, the group returned to producer Steve Albini and his Electrical Audio studios in Chicago, where the band famously destroyed its initial reputation as a bedroom solo project with the release of 2012 album Attack on Memory.

Another throwback was Baldi’s return to constant song writing à la the early solo days, which led to the nearly 30 demos that became the 11 songs on The Shadow I Remember. Instead of sticking to a tired-but-true formula, his song writing stretched out while digging deeper into his melodic talents. “I felt like I was locked in a character,” Baldi says of becoming a reliable supplier of heavy, hook-filled rock songs. “I felt like I was playing a role and not myself. I really didn’t like that role.” More frequent writing led to the freedom in form heard on The Shadow I Remember. What he can’t do alone is get loud and play noisily, which is exactly what happened when the entire band— bassist TJ Duke, guitarist Chris Brown, and drummer Jayson Gerycz—convened.
The band had more fun in the studio than they’ve had in years, playing in their signature, pulverizing way, while also trying new things. The absurdly catchy “Nothing Without You” includes a first for the band: Macie Stewart of Ohmme contributes guest vocals. Elsewhere, celebrated electronic composer Brett Naucke adds subtle synthesizer parts.

The songs are kept trim, mostly around the three-minute mark, while being gleefully overstuffed. Almost every musical part turns into at least two parts, with guitar and drums opening up and the bass switching gears. “That’s the goal—I want the three-minute song to be an epic,” Baldi says. “That’s the short version of the long-ass jam.” Lyrically, Baldi delivers an aching exploration of tortured existence, punishing self-doubt, and the familiar pangs of oppressive mystery. “Am I Something” Baldi screams on the song of the same name. “Does anybody living out there really need me?” It’s a heart breaking admission of existential confusion, delivered hoarsely, with an instantly relatable melody.

“Is this the end/ of the life I’ve known?” he asks on lead single and album opener “Oslo.” “Am I older now/ or am I just another age?” Despite the questioning lyrics, the band plays with more assurance and joy than ever before. The Shadow I Remember announces Cloud Nothings’ second decade and it sounds like a new beginning.
Releases February 26th, 2021
The Band:
Dylan Baldi – Guitar, Vocals
Jayson Gerycz – Drums
TJ Duke – Bass
Chris Brown – Guitar

Recorded with Steve Albini at Electrical Audio in Chicago, Illinois

“The Spirit Of” is taken from Cloud Nothings’ forthcoming album “The Shadow I Remember”, out February 26th, 2021.

Gathering Swans

Gathering Swans is Choir Boy’s sophomore album, following 2016’s Passive with Desire, where we were introduced to singer Adam Klopp’s alarmingly sincere vocals, which are legitimately difficult to describe without the overused adage “voice of an angel.” Klopp impressed on the debut, but on Gathering Swans he is absolutely hypnotizing. Tracks like opener “It’s Over” and single “Nites Like This” prove his worth as one of the best vocalists working. His voice is on full display, keeping the record afloat through even the most experimental tracks. The highlight of Gathering Swans is the buoyant, sparkling single “Complainer.” Klopp sings, “But it’s not that bad, I never really had it worse, I’m just a complainer,” a feeling many of us understand when we stop to realize we’re actually doing just fine. Relatable lyrics paired with bright synths and a post-punk bassline make this song joyous and dance-worthy, bringing to mind other unexpected beacons of positivity—the IDLES effect, if you will. The story goes that, while growing up in Ohio, Klopp was called “choir boy” as a dig, for what could be read as intense jealousy for his inimitable vocals, while also poking fun at his religious upbringing. But Klopp reclaimed the epithet, and rightfully so. If Gathering Swans shows us anything, it’s that Choir Boy deserve praise, not mockery.

The first single from indie pop outfit Choir Boy’s second album, Gathering Swans. Came out May 8th, 2020. “Complainer” is a sarcastic examination of self pity. The video reveals Choir Boy’s involvement in a seedy back alley fighting ring.

“Choir Boy” was what the kids called singer/songwriter Adam Klopp in his early teens when he fronted punk cover bands in Cleveland, Ohio.  An intended insult, the label seemed fair and fitting in a way, given Klopp’s religious upbringing and angelic voice. After high school, Adam left Ohio for college in Utah. While his career as a student would prove short-lived, he integrated into Provo and SLC’s underground music and art scene, left religion behind, and called his new band “Choir Boy”.

“It seemed funny to me as sort of a comical reclamation of the mocking title I received from “punk” peers as a teen. While serving as a weird reflection of my childhood and musical heritage.”

Since Choir Boy’s gorgeous debut LP on Team Love Records in 2016, the dream-pop outfit has gained a cult following online and in underground circles.  Adam’s stunning vocal range, layered compositions, and heart-breaking melodies are backed by musical partner Chaz Costello on bass (Fossil Arms, Sculpture Club, Human Leather), saxophonist and keyboardist Jeff Kleinman, and guitarist Michael Paulsen, together creating the perfect blend of nostalgia-laced romantic pop music we’ve been waiting years to hear.

Dais welcomed Choir Boy to the Dais family with the fall 2017 EP “Sunday Light” and Part Time Punks cassettes, and in 2018 reissued the Passive With Desire LP in a new repackaged format with liner notes/lyrics, along with a deluxe collection CD.  Choir Boy surprised fans with the 2019 autumn release of the “Nites Like This” single, and the announcement of Gathering Swans, the new LP out 2020!

Exclusively for Record Store Day, The Black Keys will be releasing the limited edition 45-RPM version of their chart-topping 9th album “Let’s Rock.” The album, which was originally released on June 28 via Easy Eye Sound / Nonesuch Records has spawned three Top 10 radio singles and was one of the most critically acclaimed albums of 2019. The 45-RPM version of the album is limited to 7500 pieces worldwide/5000 copies in the US. It’s a gorgeous 180-Gram 2-LP set in a deluxe holographic gatefold jacket, with each piece individually numbered. The band just announced a run of Canadian dates this Spring before hitting the road for a slate of shed shows this summer. The Black Keys are an American rock band formed in Akron, Ohio, in 2001. The group consists of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney.

The Black Keys’ ninth studio album, “Let’s Rock” is a return to the straightforward rock of the singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney’s early days as a band. “When we’re together we are The Black Keys, that’s where that real magic is,” says Auerbach, “and always has been since we were sixteen.” “The record is like an homage to electric guitar,” says Carney. “We took a simple approach and trimmed all the fat like we used to.”

Record Store Day, the annual celebration of independent record stores, is set to take place on Saturday, August 29th, 2020, and among the special releases on that day is a limited-edition, 45-RPM version of The Black Keys’ chart-topping ninth album, “Let’s Rock.”

“Let’s Rock” was first released on June 28th via Easy Eye Sound/Nonesuch Records to critical praise, with Rolling Stone saying, “singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney bring a heightened purism too, emphasizing the power-duo force of their early records.” The Associated Press adds, “The Black Keys are rock royalty and to the relief of many, they aren’t quite ready to relinquish their reign.” “A return to what The Black Keys do best,” says Uncut “Brilliant.”

The new Record Store Day edition of “Let’s Rock” is being pressed on two 180-gram vinyl discs and comes in a deluxe holographic gatefold jacket, with each piece individually numbered. The set is limited to 7,500 pieces worldwide.

recordstore day

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What to say about Jason Molina? He was prolific—he made dozens of records during his lifetime—and, for a time, elusive. His music was spectral, haunted, out of time. And he began making it in an era, the mid-’90s, when artists had more control over what the world knew about them than they do now. Molina, like Will Oldham—whose label, Palace Music, released some of Molina’s earliest recordings. His album covers were adorned with birds and murky trees. He sang about moons, trains, bells, constellations. Though he performed under various names—Songs: Ohia, Magnolia Electric Co.—his fixations were constant: isolation, self-doubt, survival. As Molina put it in one song: “Why put a new address on the same old loneliness?” He had a hollow, reedy voice and a penchant for singing about ghosts. His earliest arrangements were spare: You could hear the rooms in which they were recorded, the sound of hands touching instruments. On one song, 2002’s “Didn’t It Rain,” you can hear Molina instructing his fellow musicians, muttering: “Let’s bring it back. We can sing one more.” Who was this guy, I used to wonder? Where did he come from?.

Molina was from Lorain, Ohio—the same town as Toni Morrison. He grew up in a trailer park. His mother was an alcoholic. In her deeply reported 2017 book, Jason Molina: Riding with the Ghost, childhood friends of Molina’s who remember him collecting trinkets and magical objects—animal bones, flags, coins, cigar boxes—a habit he’d keep for the rest of his life. In college, at Oberlin, he got the nickname “Sparky,” for his constant nervous energy. He was a loner, a myth maker, and sometimes an outright liar, telling improbable stories about himself and where he came from. He’d play college parties and “sink the mood.” Most people who met him didn’t quite know what to make of him: He had an artist’s charisma, and an artist’s way of dealing with the world, which is to say, he kept it at a distance. Mostly he wrote songs: compulsively, repetitively. Sometimes he forgot or renamed or even rerecorded them. In his discography, phrases and moods and characters come around again and again, as if every song were part of something bigger, and more whole, than itself.

At some point Molina began drinking in earnest. By the end, he died of it, nine months shy of his 40th birthday. When friends asked what was wrong, or why he was acting strangely, he’d say he had a “virus around his heart.” In lyrics he talked about being stalked by something bigger than himself, and attempting to fight back:

Jason Molina played the blues. That’s a simple way to describe the diverse, mysterious, alternately sad and euphoric music of the late singer/songwriter, who died in 2013 at the age of 39. He used music as a way to explore big concepts: life, death, love and existence. He’d write rock epics about the endtimes, and hushed dirges about being followed by ghosts, either real or metaphorical. His music was unmistakably Midwestern at times, evoking the factories and long stretches of road between Indiana and Chicago. At others, he seemed to occupy a space outside of any recognizable locale. And he was often followed by vivid man-made and natural imagery, the most iconic presence in his songs being the eerie light of the moon.

Molina grew up in Ohio, and many of his early recordings—under the name Songs: Ohia—reflected those roots. He was raised on a diet of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, but he developed his own unique style early on, employing space more deftly than most indie singer/songwriters of the ’90s and early ’00s. And while his first few records employed a bare-bones lo-fi folk sound, it didn’t take long for Molina to cultivate a sound of his own, one that was almost a contradiction of itself. His songs weren’t often loud, but they carried an intensity that volume alone couldn’t convey. “He would crank his electric, but he would barely touch the strings,” said artist Will Schaff, who designed the covers of several of Molina’s albums and singles.

The body of work that Jason Molina released in his lifetime is split into several disparate parts. The first part comprises his work as Songs: Ohia, which was a slower, more atmospheric sound that he eventually built into breathtaking, haunting perfection. The second part is Magnolia Electric Co., which was Molina’s proper rock band, often drawing comparisons to Neil Young, and rightfully so. It wasn’t just that Molina was influenced by Young and Crazy Horse, but that he actually wrote songs good enough to stand up to Shakey’s. And in between there were the solo recordings, mostly just Molina and his guitar, not quite as dramatic or intricate as the others, but still beautiful, still affecting.

With a 15-year anniversary of Magnolia Electric Co. It seemed like the right time to take a look at the whole of Molina’s studio album catalog, from his early lo-fi sounds to his later forays into rock ‘n’ roll. Everything he did was interesting. Most of it was very good. Some of it reflective of the sadness and addiction that followed him throughout his life. And a solid segment of his albums are utterly essential.

Songs: Ohia – Songs: Ohia (1997; Secretly Canadian)

Jason Molina discography Songs Ohia

Jason Molina began his recording career in much the same way every indie band does: With a set of songs rich in promise and made on a shoestring budget. It’s not the lowest fidelity of any Songs: Ohia release, but it’s close. The songs are well-written and feature full-band arrangements, Molina’s folk-rock sounds touched up with the occasional accordion or saxophone. Yet the production quality does flatten what should be much richer-sounding songs, and most of them are far shorter than the gorgeous ballads that Molina would develop over the next couple of years. Molina himself sounds reedy and thin, the full power of his tenor buried a bit in the mix. Yet it’s easy to hear the strength of the songs and the possibilities of what Songs: Ohia could, and did, become.


Songs: Ohia – Impala (1998; Secretly Canadian)

Jason Molina discography Impala

The first few years of Songs: Ohia were remarkably prolific, with Molina releasing seven albums in just four years. Two of those were limited-edition recordings featuring demos and improvisations, but it’s still an impressive amount of music for a concentrated period of time. The second of those seven, Impala, is mostly in line with the self-titled debut, a recording of primarily stark recordings built from overwhelming sadness and bare-bones instrumentation. It’s all very good and emotionally draining, though it has its moments of variation and a handful of standouts, like the epic slowcore opener “An Ace Unable to Change” and the almost punk “One of those Uncertain Hands,” which explodes throughout its 87 seconds. Still, it’s hard not to miss the bigger arrangements of the debut, even if the recording quality is a little better.



 Songs: Ohia – Axxess and Ace (1999; Secretly Canadian)

jason molina discography Axcess and Ace

Not only did Molina release a lot of music in those first few years, but he actually progressed a lot as a songwriter and performer in that time. His third album, Axcess and Ace, had become the template for the next few (official) Songs: Ohia records, and was the best yet upon its release. There’s a hushed, spacious sensibility to the songs, with an almost jazz-like aesthetic throughout. Molina switches from acoustic guitar to electric on much of the album, and the greater clarity of sound gives the record a more graceful, eerily beautiful sound. At times it’s emotionally devastating, as on “Love Leaves Its Abusers.” But the album also features Songs: Ohia’s first truly great song, “Captain Badass.” Unfolding over seven-plus minutes with its nocturnal strums and brushed drums, the track finds Molina embracing jazzy textures to great effect. Moreover, his voice sounds even stronger than it had on the previous two releases, the young singer/songwriter coming into his own as a powerful presence and a stellar songwriter alike.

Songs: Ohia – The Ghost (1999; Secretly Canadian/tour only)

jason molina discography The Ghost

Early on in his Songs: Ohia career, Molina released a handful of tour-only releases that featured material in the vein of his proper studio recordings, albeit made in considerably different circumstances. For a lot of touring indie bands in the ’00s, this was fairly common practice (and still is to some degree), though for the most part Molina kept to wide-released albums after 2000. Still, it offered an interesting behind-the-scenes glimpse of the songwriter. The Ghost sounds essentially like a collection of demos, its 10 songs recorded with bare-bones, no-budget technology—probably a hand-held tape recorder. And through the fuzz, some hints of his songwriting strengths can be heard, though the hiss and static do obscure a great deal of it. It’s not a proper album of his for a reason, though it’s at least interesting, a limited-release obscurity that in all likelihood helped contribute a few bucks to something greater ahead.


 Songs: Ohia – The Lioness (2000; Secretly Canadian)

jason molina discography The Lioness

Jason Molina’s fifth album (or fourth if you’re less inclined to count The Ghost among his “official” albums) marked the beginning of a new phase of exploration, emotional expression and undeniable beauty. Or, put more simply, The Lioness, after three good albums, was his first great one. Possessing neither the kitchen-sink lo-fi sounds of his debut nor the more overt folkiness of the others, The Lioness is a spacious, slow-moving album that allows each moment of bruised beauty to linger. It helps that this was the best-recorded album of his to date, which is apparent through the gripping seven minutes of “The Black Crow,” opening the album with a breathtaking tension that leaves one exhausted after listening. And yet, there’s a minimalist sensibility about it—the chord progression almost never changes, just the volume and intensity, and Molina’s own rising voice as he yells the phrase “And it’s fading!” with some distance between him and the mic. It’s not a loud album, but it can take a lot out of a listener, particularly in tracks like “Tigress” or the title track, wherein Molina treats courtship as bloodsport: “Want to feel my heartbreak if it must break in your jaws/ Want you to lick my blood off your paws.” It’s one of the most gruesome albums ever written about love, which in a sense makes it all the more romantic.

  Songs: Ohia – Protection Spells (2000; Secretly Canadian/tour only)

jason molina discography Protection Spells

Songs: Ohia released three albums in 2000, which is close to a record for Molina, although only if you view the box set Sojourner as a solitary release rather than as four in one. Yet of the three full-length releases to bear the Songs: Ohia name in 2000,Protection Spells is something of a minor inclusion, as it was a tour album that didn’t find its way on to most retailer shelves. That’s because, in contrast to his other albums, it comprised an entire session’s worth of improvised material. This doesn’t mean it’s a free jazz album or anything quite so chaotic. Rather, Molina and a band played their way through some loose jams of slow, bluesy sounds that are often stark, unrelentingly melancholy and occasionally quite stunning. “Trouble Will Find You,” for instance, is utterly gorgeous. It most closely resembles Cat Power’s What Would the Community Think, which is a strong album to be compared to, though it’s mostly missing that album’s melodic peaks. Overall it’s a much more listener-friendly set of music than 1999′s The Ghost, though still out of reach of a stunner like The Lioness from the same year.

 Songs: Ohia – Ghost Tropic (2000; Secretly Canadian)

Jason Molina discography Songs Ohia Ghost Tropic

There are a lot of songs in Jason Molina’s catalog that make mention of ghosts. One might say that Molina was haunted in many senses of the word, and one of them seemed to be quite literal. Ghostly visitations took place in many of his albums, and he even let them creep into the title of his 2000 album Ghost Tropic. Ghost Tropic is indeed ghostly, aided by Lullaby for the Working Class’ Mike Mogis and Shane Aspegren on a set of music that’s considerably different from many of Molina’s other recordings. It’s not as folky as his first few solo albums, nor as gritty and rock-oriented as his Magnolia Electric Co. material. It’s stark, gothic avant-blues that’s as eerie and shadowy as anything he’s ever recorded. And though it received mixed reviews upon first release, there’s no doubt that it’s one of the best things he ever made, in part because it’s such a bold statement. There are open spaces throughout, ominously ringing piano keys, field recordings of birds and whirring organs. There’s even a touch of The Bad Seeds’ ornate punk blues, channeled through lengthy dirges. And for his part, Molina is a bit more restrained than usual, singing on six of the album’s eight songs but often with hypnotic repetition or leaving ellipses rather than carrying out his characteristic narratives. The two 10-plus-minute tracks toward the end of the album, “Not Just a Ghost’s Heart” and “Incantation,” are breathtaking in their pitch-black atmosphere. Yet the shorter tracks reveal their own stunning details, like the chilling two-note piano bassline of “The Body Burned Away” and the pick harmonics and stylistic detuning of “Lightning Risked It All” (which could easily be slipped onto a Califone album without raising red flags). Ghost Tropic is such a strange album, but it’s executed so beautifully and so hauntingly that it amounts to one of Molina’s greatest single recordings.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Songs: Ohia: Travels in Constants Temporary Residence Ltd

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Available on Vinyl for the first time ever. Sometime in 2001 -sandwiched between the release of Ghost Tropic and its follow-up, the cryptic classic, Didn’t It Rain – Songs: Ohia recorded an EP for Temporary Residence’s distance-themed subscription series, Travels In Constants. The untitled EP consisted of a single 18-minute song -performed live by Jason Molina in his living room, recorded directly to 4-track cassette as the sounds of a typical Chicago night bled through the air. Built solely from an acoustic guitar and Molina’s familiar melancholy croon, it’s a hauntingly intimate track. Molina once remarked that it was “probably too out there” for a proper Songs: Ohia album, which is perhaps why is felt right at home in this context. Scarcely available in its original CD-only edition of 1,000 copies, Travels In Constants has finally been remastered and reissued for vinyl. Completing this reissue is Howler, another unusually lengthy Songs: Ohia track that, like Travels In Constants, was recorded and released in 2001 in an edition of only 1,000. These tracks are amongst the most bistractly beautiful and alarmingly delicate music that Molina ever committed to tape.

Songs: Ohia – Didn’t It Rain (2002; Secretly Canadian)

Jason Molina discography Songs Ohia Didn't It Rain













Just about everything Jason Molina recorded was good to great. A handful of albums he released were absolute masterpieces. Didn’t It Rain is perfect. His most highly acclaimed album at the time of its release, Didn’t It Rain has aged remarkably well, its nocturnal blues-folk dirges an enchanting continuation of the stunning sounds on Ghost Tropic, rendered in the oxidized hues of Rust Belt America. Gone are the birdsong and metallic sounds of percussive elements and harmonic-scrape guitar strings. In their stead are is the spiritual soul of gospel and electric blues, still played slowly and with a hushed beauty. The album was mostly recorded at night, and it sounds like it—this isn’t music that makes a lot of sense during the daytime. And though it’s dark, it’s also hopeful. The opening title track, arguably Molina’s most beautiful composition, is a beacon of hope that guides the album. “If you do see that golden light, that it shines in its fiery eye,” he sings, “go on and catch it while you can… let it course through you, and let it burn through you.” Elsewhere, Molina and his bandmates—which include Jim and Jennie of the Pinetops, lending some breathtaking vocal harmonies—groove through a hypnotic two-chord repetition in “Steve Albini’s Blues,” take on a gothic Americana sound in “Ring the Bell” and go whisper quiet in “Two Blue Lights.”

The album is streaked with imagery of Middle America—the blue factory flame, the Chicago moon and the bridge out of Hammond, Indiana. It lends a certain warmth and soul to a piece of America that’s often reduced to demographic data, and in all of the darkness of Didn’t It Rain, Molina never lets go of hope. This was technically the last official Songs: Ohia album, as Molina would later clarify. It’s not necessarily that surprising in hindsight. Once he perfected it, he was ready to move on.

Songs: Ohia – Magnolia Electric Co. (2003; Secretly Canadian)

Jason Molina discography Magnolia Electric Co.

There’s an interesting paradox about the ninth and final Songs: Ohia album. It’s technically a Songs: Ohia album, and the title of it is Magnolia Electric Co. But since Molina adopted the name of Magnolia Electric Co. to name the rock band he assembled from that moment forward, it’s technically that band’s first album too. It came as something of a surprise whenMagnolia Electric Co. was released, however, as much of Molina’s output to that point had rarely been steeped in fuzz and recorded with the volume cranked. Not that Molina ever suggested such a thing was out of the question; he had covered Black Sabbath and AC/DC songs, and was a longtime fan of hard rock and metal, despite mostly playing a much subtler style of music. Perhaps it’s credit to Molina’s rock ‘n’ roll schooling that right out of the gates, he delivers one of the best rock ‘n’ roll anthems of his career—and of the ’00s—”Farewell Transmission.” Driven by a recurring chorus of “long dark blues,” it’s a sprawling country-rock telling of an apocalyptic event that’s painted in vivid hues: “Now we’ll all be brothers of the fossil fire of the sun/ Now we’ll all be sisters of the fossil blood of the moon.” The entire album comprises highlights, essentially, many of them hard rocking ones, such as “I’ve Been Riding With the Ghost” and “John Henry Split His Heart,” though fascinatingly it’s one of few Molina-fronted albums that gives two other singers the lead. One is Scout Niblett, who sings “Peoria Lunch Box Blues,” and the other is whiskey-throated country singer Lawrence Peters, who gives “The Old Black Hen” some powerful Western soul. Molina later declared this the first proper Magnolia Electric Co. album, and it makes sense as being that; instead of choosing a gradual transition into a new project, he made the line of demarcation a bold one, louder and more maximalist than any of his previous albums. As Molina himself says, it’s a long dark blues: Listen.

  Jason Molina – Pyramid Electric Co. (2004; Secretly Canadian)

jason molina discography Pyramid Electric Co.

Back when this album was released, I remember getting in touch with the label about receiving an advance. There weren’t any—in fact, the label in-house PR person said that whoever reviewed it for Pitchfork must have bought a copy, since it wasn’t being serviced (which is writerspeak for being on the album-promo mailing list). The fact of the matter is that Pyramid Electric Co. isn’t a high profile release from Molina, sandwiched between his first two Magnolia Electric Co. releases (one of which was also the last Songs: Ohia album). A limited edition vinyl-only album, Pyramid Electric Co. was a stark, primarily voice-and-guitar record that harkened back to Molina’s early tour-only issues. But that’s not to say it’s a disappointing set of songs at all. Better recorded than The Ghost and more stripped down than Protection Spells, Pyramid is both haunting and gorgeous, its most striking moment the dark and spacious opening title track. Yet the tuneful “Song of the Road” showed that there was still room for a good hook.


 Magnolia Electric Co. – What Comes After the Blues (2005; Secretly Canadian)

jason molina discography Magnolia What Comes After the Blues

With the release of 2003′s Magnolia Electric Co., Molina drew a dividing line between the hushed dirges of his Songs: Ohia project and the full-band country-rock that he’d soon fire up. At the time it came as a surprise—a spectacular one—though it’s far from an unprecedented move in indie rock. In fact, that same year Phil Elverum did the same thing in reverse, transitioning the ambitious indie rock collective The Microphones into the anything-goes solo recordings of Mount Eerie. The biggest revelation of Magnolia Electric Co., however, was that Molina could—and did—rock. Inspired heavily by Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Magnolia Electric Co. delivered one hell of a rock single with 2005′s “The Dark Don’t Hide It.” Maybe the catchiest song Molina ever wrote, “Dark” takes the idea of heartbreak and human unkindness into a masterful display of clever, homespun verse: “Now the world was empty on the day when they made it/But heaven needed someplace to throw all the shit.” It’s the first song on What Comes After the Blues, and that’s its biggest flaw. All of its songs are very good; none of them are quite that driving and powerful. “Hard To Love A Man” comes close, more of a slow burn than an explosion. And interestingly, the final three songs (of eight) are entirely acoustic, borrowing the Neil Young/Bob Dylan trick of splitting the album’s aesthetics in two. But while no song musically kicks as much ass as “Dark,” closing track “I Can Not Have Seen the Light” is just as emotionally poignant, exploring depression in a very real and plainspoken way: “Do I have to be alright all the time?” While it’s by no means Molina’s best album, it’s still an album that still often finds him at his best.


 Jason Molina – Let Me Go, Let Me Go, Let Me Go (2006; Secretly Canadian)

Jason Molina discography let me go

The release of Let Me Go, Let Me Go, Let Me Go was a return to an old way of doing things for Molina. Released after he had transitioned into the full-band roots-rock sound of Magnolia Electric Co., the album found Molina shedding the bigger, noisier rock songs for songs that were mostly just the sound of the man’s voice and his guitar. There were some organs and pianos here and there, sure, but Let Me Go is essentially an intimate session with just Molina himself, free of additional adornments and instrumentation. He never needed much else, and here his dark visions are as mysteriously evocative as ever: “The dark outside the world/ I think it looks like rain.” While the transition into leading a proper rock ‘n’ roll sound does leave this feeling a little bit less robust as his other recordings around the same time, it’s still a strong set of music that’s worth a listen after dark, during an autumn rain.


Magnolia Electric Co. – Fading Trails (2006; Secretly Canadian)

Magnolia Electric Co Fading Trails review

Fading Trails is an excellent record. It’s also a peculiar record. For one, its artwork depicts a topless woman with a kind of ghostly air about her, rather than the illustrations that typically adorn a Songs: Ohia or Magnolia Electric Co. recording. Furthermore, while it’s ostensibly a studio album, it’s pieced together like a compilation, its nine tracks culled from four separate recording sessions, all of which were collected on 2007′s Sojourner. So on the surface it might seem like a more disjointed work, considering it features different producers, including Steve Albini and David Lowery. However, it doesn’t sound that way. Maybe it’s simply the result of being the work of a singular artist with a strongly defined style, but Fading Trails all fits together quite well, from the country rock hooks of “Lonesome Valley” and “Talk to Me Devil, Again” to the stripped-down closing tracks, “Spanish Moon Fall and Rise” and “Steady Now.” And the imagery of past records still looms large over these songs: “Out here the ghost wears its feathered crown of blues/And the sickle moon to watch over all the lost horizon.” Ghosts, blues and the moon: That’s Jason Molina’s music in a nutshell.

Magnolia Electric Co. – Sojourner (2007; Secretly Canadian/limited edition)

Jason Molina discography Sojourner

The curious thing about so much of Jason Molina’s recorded output is not so much what he released but how he released it. While his best albums were no question the “official” Songs: Ohia or Magnolia Electric Co. releases (Molina was often his own best editor and judge), there’s so much additional material that can’t be purchased in physical formats anymore, like the 2007-released limited-edition box set Sojourner. At the time it was issued—in a wooden box, beautifully packaged and currently going for $150 or so secondhand)—Sojourner didn’t entirely comprise unreleased material. Nine of its tracks made their way on to the previous year’s Fading Trails, essentially a studio album culled from the best of those four sessions. Most of them were taken from Nashville Moon, the first, Steve Albini-recorded disc whose outtakes are just as strong as those that made the Fading Trails cut. The final disc is entirely made up of acoustic tracks, some of which tend to lose some of the steam of the early material, and the EP-length Sun Sessions is a brief but interesting set of extras. But the David Lowery-produced Black Ram is perhaps the most interesting inclusion, a dark and haunting set of dirges that takes a much eerier turn than the catchier, driving songs of Nashville Moon. Altogether, Sojourner contains much of the best material that Molina ever recorded, along with some that’s not necessarily incredible but still enjoyable. It’s a pretty overwhelming set of music, but proof that Molina’s leftovers occasionally were just as good or even better than the official LPs.

Magnolia Electric Co. – Josephine (2009; Secretly Canadian)

Magnolia Electric Co. Josephine review

Jason Molina’s final album release in his lifetime was never expected to be that. His death four years later came as a shock, though his own health had been deteriorating due to alcohol, and he essentially stopped releasing music. In fact, in May of 2012, he released a letter to fans expressing gratitude for their concern and sounding relatively upbeat in spite of his deteriorating health. But in 2009, despite being the year that he’d fall off the radar after canceling tour dates with Will Johnson, he still was as productive and prolific as ever. His final release was his collaborative album will Will Johnson, Molina & Johnson, but just five months before that, he released his last album with Magnolia Electric Co., Josephine. And again, it was never intended to be that. In fact, it feels like a strong continuation of his previous three Magnolia albums, albeit one more steeped in country-rock sounds and adorned with gorgeous accents of pedal steel. And much like those albums, Josephine also returns to the rewarding well of Crazy Horse-style rock ‘n’ roll, particularly on standouts “The Handing Down,” “Map of the Falling Sky” and “Little Sad Eyes,” all of which run together in a sequence. That Josephine isn’t considered one of the greatest moments in Molina’s career isn’t necessarily a knock on it. He had already issued about four true masterpieces in his lifetime. If anything, it feels just slightly out of reach of those heights, a comfortable continuation rather than besting the heights ofDidn’t It Rain or Magnolia Electric Co. It’s a warm and lovely album that suggests Molina had far from reached the bottom of his songwriting well, and there’s something oddly reassuring in that.

Molina & Johnson (2009; Secretly Canadian)

Jason Molina discography Molina and Johnson

The final album that Jason Molina released in his lifetime wasn’t a proper solo album or a Magnolia Electric Co. effort either. It was a full-length collaboration with Centro-Matic’s Will Johnson that felt less like a fully formed album than a fun set of songs and unfinished sketches that the two musicians simply had fun putting together. It’s not bad at all, and in fact features some truly gorgeous songs, including “What You Reckon, What You Breathe” and “Each Star Marks a Day.” But Molina is only a solo vocalist on a handful of songs here, Johnson mostly taking the lead, and quite a few of the songs seeming either unfinished or pale sketches of something that could have been even greater with a bit more time devoted to them. It’s all mostly stark, few of the songs featuring more than guitar and voice and occasionally some keyboard, and the fidelity even seems a bit inconsistent throughout. At the time, though, it was merely a nice appendix to an already rich catalog, less an essential than something along the lines of the Songs: Ohia tour-only releases from earlier on in his career. Not essential, but not bad. And though the music itself is stark and minor key, the truly sad thing about it is how open-ended it feels.

‘Molina and Johnson’ was released 11 years ago today on

Secretly Canadian


Will Johnson approached Jason Molina at the merch table following a Magnolia Electric Co. Austin, TX show in September 2007, where they engaged in a conversation about hats — favorite types and what’s appropriate for the stage — and, of course, pumpkins. Numbers were exchanged on tattered napkins. Contact was made within a week, and a straight face agreement to co-conspire was made.
Five months later to the day, having loaded all their musical equipment into Argyle, Texas’ Echolab studio, the two were in Johnson’s truck headed for downtown Denton where they picked up the necessities of a recording session: food, beer, a BB gun and “lots of extra BBs.”
“We were basically ready,” Johnson said. “For ten days we wrote, co-wrote, workshopped, complimented, scrutinized, drank, invited friends to come play music, smoked, made lots of notes and drawings, drank a little more and shot the BB gun off the back porch when we just needed some time and space. In the throes of all this, our record was made in the late February sun.”

Songs Ohia: Love and Work: The Lioness Sessions (2018 Secretly Canadian)


The Lioness is the first Jason Molina project to fully turn away from the battlefield folk and deconstructed Americana of earlier Songs: Ohia recordings. At the dawn of the 21st century, the album felt modern. It aligned Molina with a new set of peers – Low, Gastr del Sol, Red House Painters and, most importantly, the influential Scottish band Arab Strap, whose producer and members were crucial in the creation of The Lioness. The avant-garde tones and arrangements of Arab Strap are absorbed here into Molina’s songwriting to create what would become, for many acolytes, the archetypal Songs: Ohia sound. Love and Work: The Lioness Sessions, the box set reissue, will serve as the seminal log of the era, complete with lost songs, photos, drawings, and essays from those who knew Molina best.

We know Molina was diligent in both love and work. He treated songcraft like a job at the mill, and his approach to romance was not so different. We know that when he fell in love with his wife, he was dutiful in his adoration. There were strings of love letters and poetic gesture. Included in this edition are replicated examples of this relentless love – an envelope with a letter from Molina, a photograph of Molina and his to-be wife, a postcard, a Two of Hearts playing card, and a personal check for one million kisses. Some of these items were gifts he would send to his new love from the road; others, like the 2 of Hearts, were totems he’d carry with him around this time as a symbol for his burgeoning love.

And so, the head-over-heels album that is The Lioness has its workman counterpart. Nearly another album’s worth of material was recorded in Scotland during the album sessions. While similar in tone and structure, the songs seem to deal in the grit and dirt of being. These are songs for aching muscles getting soothed in the third-shift pub. But they’re also examples of Molina’s diligence as he constructs what would be the essential elements of The Lioness. In addition to these outtakes, we also have a 4-track session made weeks earlier in London with friend James Tugwell. Comprised of primarily guitar, hand drums and voice, these songs are raw experiments that mostly serve to illustrate Molina’s well of words and ideas. But then, there is the devastating Sacred Harp hymn Wondrous Love. While he may have had his new love in mind, one can’t help but think of Molina’s legacy as he softly warbles “Into eternity I will sing / Into eternity I will sing.” You don’t have to try too hard to mythologize Molina. He did all the work for you.

Given what’s going on outside, this is resonant stuff now. But it was then too. I’ve been thinking about why I was first drawn to Molina’s music, and why I’ve been returning to it. I think the answers are more or less the same. There is his voice, the strength of it, even when it wavers. There is the way the first few chords he tends to play ring out, like someone clearing a path up ahead of you. And there is the melancholy of it, which exists and yet is somehow reassuring. Why listen to music this sad and unguarded? To recognize yourself and your sadness in someone else. To feel: We are not alone. Even when we are alone.

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Emily Keener has marked her 2020 return with unbridled honesty, intimate reflection, and a hauntingly poignant indie folk sound. It’s a winning combination for the 21-year-old Cleveland-based singer/songwriter, and one that makes her sophomore solo record a tremendous success: A stirring coming-of-age soundtrack to life and love, isolation and connection, “I Do Not Have to Be Good” hails Emily Keener’s rise as a vulnerable lyricist and a breathtaking songwriter.

I Do Not Have to Be Good by Emily Keener was independently released Friday, May 22nd , 2020. An ambitious project four years in the making, Emily Keener’s new album is a sophomore triumph: She was a former Voice Season 10 competitor but please let that not put you off,  Keener’s music takes a refreshingly clear, thoughtful approach to significant coming-of-age questions of intimacy and purpose, sex and identity, connection and living with intent. Her songs are haunting like those of Phoebe Bridgers, and equally moving; there is no question that this young up-and-comer is going places.

In premiering the album’s lead single “Do You Love Me Lately?” critics praised Keener for crafting “a raw indie folk song exploring vulnerability and insecurity,” calling it “heart-wrenchingly beautiful in its grace and overwhelming honesty.” The singer’s depiction of grief and anguish through delicate vocals and expressive, nuanced melodies also earned her a spot on which further highlighted how the track covers so much more than the descriptions of breakup or love’s loss would suggest: “The song is about finding oneself in a haze of uncertainty and self-doubt; it’s about learning to let go of expectations, and learning to be vulnerable; about diving headfirst into our fears, and dwelling in the darker spaces of our psyche.”

While certainly buoyed by the inimitable beauty of its lead single, I Do Not Have to Be Good is a wondrous, enchanting journey in and of itself. The album expands the breadth of Keener’s art and artistry through juxtaposed moments of serenity and turmoil, characterized as much through sonic highs and lows as by moments of emotional tranquility and intensity. The haunting opening track “Nap” released earlier this May as a third single, sets the record’s tone perfectly with its evocative depth, percussive resonance, and achingly stripped, raw arrangement:

Thus begins Keener’s complete unveiling: a true odyssey into the mind’s eye, “I Do Not Have to Be Good” brings us closer to the artist than ever before through diary-like entries spelled out in song after heart-aching song. Whether it’s the touching interplay of guitar and piano subverting her second single “Boats” or the emotionally resonant heart-on-sleeve performance in Keener’s record elevates real life – those special, little moments of understanding, longing, love, belonging, and so on. It’s a testament not only to her growth as an artist, but also to her handle on the magic of our shared human experience.

Spiritual, immersive, and unabashedly true: This album could be a soundtrack to our darkest days, as well as our lighter ones. It’s a beautiful listening experience through and through, and one that feels fresh and inviting every time we listen. Emily Keener has tapped into greatness on her sophomore effort; here’s to hoping we hear much more of this artist-to-watch in the years to come.  peek inside Emily Keener’s “I Do Not Have to Be Good”  as the artist goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of this her sophomore album!.


I wrote Nap in my late-teens as I was starting to navigate adulthood. It’s about the desire to become enmeshed with someone when the world feels too overwhelming to process alone. In the midst of the chaos of 2020, I relate to it even more. I hear my past self differentiating between what was familiar and what I actually believed to be true. Dan Fernandez plays a dynamic percussion part that echoes in the distance, along with layers of spectral vocals I created with Lexicon effects processors. Dalton Brand wove together the ethereal effects that make the track feel like it’s inhaling and exhaling. “I would take a nap with you/Over anything that god could do/You’re not going to bed without me/Not going anywhere without me” The lyrics are informed by the deep confusion and discomfort I felt as I let go of the religious certainty that was my foundation in childhood. Life felt like too much to handle. I wanted to hole up and sleep forever. That feeling has dissipated over time, but it comes and goes in waves still. My hope is that the song can be a reminder of common humanity; the struggles and coping mechanisms we share.

Do You Love Me Lately?

We had to record three or four different versions of this one before it felt right, and I guess that’s fitting for a song that’s about questioning yourself romantically. It’s set in the hollow space where openness isn’t reciprocated, movement isn’t mirrored; you’re waiting around for someone to figure out whether they care for you or not. The meaning has morphed over time for me, but the story started off as a fantasy about an unavailable dreamgirl. “Look at me, I’m taking it badly/Nose to my knees, I’m wondering madly/You say you didn’t love me then/But do you love me lately?” The chorus is a plea to this spectre I had imagined so much with, and I wanted it to sound raw and sheepish and insecure; a cry for reassurance within an uncertain dynamic. It touches on what we truly desire from our partners, the things that we project onto others unconsciously, and the types of love we idealize.

I Know (feat. Cathalyn)

This song is a reflection on feeling a reciprocal ‘knowing’ with someone. The kind of connection that transforms simple shared experiences into a loving space that you’re both fully present in. A pining is woven in with small intimacies like blankets and morning coffee. There’s this assertion throughout the song– ”I know, I know, I know” — and the lyrics eventually reduce to nothing more than short, sure phrases. When you’re apart from someone you really care for, it’s almost like you have to be extra adamant to ground it all in reality. “We belong, we belong, we do/You know my soul and my soul knows you.” I was lucky enough to be joined by my friend Cathalyn (of The Katy) on this track. She lent lovely melodies that color the ending with warm, anthemic energy.

I Don’t Know Anything

This song is about self-betrayal and the micro-interactions that cause a person to distrust themselves over time. When I listen to it, I hear my past self writing from an insular world; a cocoon, safe and separate. “I feel years behind the people/In the places I go/So much I could say, so much I should know.” I felt like a stranger to my peers, almost like there was an out-of-print book about existing that everyone else had read but I’d missed out on somehow. No one had to say “wow, you don’t know anything” outright. That was just a given to me, a core belief I held. Within the haze, though, there were some guiding lights that brought me back to myself. I’m striving to trust my own perception and intuition, and maybe know one or two more things eventually.


I wrote this one after sailing Lake Erie on a summer night under the stars. It was my first and only time on a sailboat, so it’s nice to have a musical snapshot of it. Everything was calm and there weren’t any other boats or people in sight. I felt very present and at peace, no thoughts running through my head other than to notice how beautiful it all was. I wanted to make something simple to reflect that serenity. There’s a bittersweet aspect to it, a recognition that every experience comes to an end. “I’ll start building a boat/Late into every night/To sail us both away from the passing of time” I sing it to appreciate the loves in my life and the moments I get lucky enough to end up in every now and again.


Static was recorded live in-studio with Curtis Leonard. We were both playing acoustics, and doing full take after full take. The energy of the performance we chose is really special to me and it’s exactly what I hoped it could be. The song observes the decline of a relationship and the fundamental differences that have worn it down over time. Even things as simple as disagreements about what music to listen to can speak to resentments that have built up as a result of unconscious patterns and unrealized desires. “What were we doing on that couch?/No one in that room was gonna figure anybody out.” I associate Static with a loss of connection. A transmission that’s been blocked, communication between two entities that has devolved into something unrecognizable. In essence, the song is about sifting through that convolution to find a solid truth to hold. The chorus is a flashback to my childhood. A house nestled in thick forest, a dinner bell on the side, we’re facing the barn, a song’s playing somewhere. “Clear as a bell on a cabin wall/Calling me home when the sun goes down and the chorus falls” We listened to a lot of country music when I was little. I felt inexplicable comfort and satisfaction when the chorus would arrive, when the singer finally got to the hook they’d been setting up the whole time. The song could be ridiculous or heartbreaking, and it would still feel like a great relief to me. A high, even. It’s what made me want to write music. “I don’t need your 3 AM commiserations/Cause there’s a hook for every lonely minute/On this radio station” I look for closure and familiarity in songs when there is little to be found elsewhere. In uncertain times, I still find myself listening for the hook.

Mary, I Love Her

I wrote this song as a tribute to Mary Oliver, a couple of weeks after she passed away. Her poetry made a deep impression on me, and always seemed to pop up in my life when I needed it most. The first line (“I do not have to be good”) is also the album title, and it is a response to Mary’s poem ‘Wild Geese’ which reads:
You do not have to be good
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
I’ve always found these lines to be deeply affirming. Having spent years mired in self-doubt and perfectionism, the idea of presenting as anything other than good and perfect was alien to me. But this poem in particular got through to me time and again. It helped shape me into a more compassionate person, toward myself and others. I thank Mary for her direct, heart-opening truth.


This takes me back to the attic apartment; its rain-speckled windows framing rows of slate gray roofs and patches of light gray Cleveland sky. The tone of the song itself is gray, and the lyrics describe what it feels like to hide from myself in my own body, in my own home. I’d begun to notice how suppressing certain emotions had affected my sense of self over time. “Never been worse/Never been better/Sleepwalking in the strangest weather” It’s true that when we push things down, they just show up in other ways. I started having vivid, disturbing dreams. I was keeping my mouth closed because I had no idea what it might say. Eli Hanley plays the erratic piano part, an lilting undercurrent of chaos. When I wrote the song, I was afraid of myself and I wanted to retreat from everything. The emotional qualities remind me of fog, and the shapes of things concealed in fog.


I didn’t write Comfort in a motel room, but I think the song lives in one. The recording itself is rough and smoke stained, and it feels like paper that’s slowly singeing. I remember sitting at the console alone, working on vocal arrangements all night. Layers and layers of Echoplex, rough transmission. The lyrics describe a breaking point; the moment I realized that the role I was playing with someone had been causing me pain. “I can be your comfort or your blinding light/Tell me how you want me to leave you tonight” Leaving felt like too big of a thing to do alone, so I found myself waiting and asking–consciously and unconsciously–for them to help me move on. But that defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? Separating from someone reminds me: I’m stuck with myself. I have to walk my own path, do hard things, shift my own patterns. It’s not easy to accept that. When people disentangle from each other, the pain feels elemental. The sense of safety and comfort you built together is no longer there. It’s bewildering. I found myself questioning reality, wondering what the hell had happened, what context I must have missed that might explain my situation to me. “They burned like angels together/They thought that playing house could make a home/Oh, is this how the story goes?/All my waking hours are blurry pictures/And I’m falling asleep to static on the radio” I lost parts of myself through entanglement with another. It’s like when you forget to clasp the ends of necklaces, and all the chains become a messy knot. Trying to force it apart feels dangerous; what if something snaps? Studying the chains to see where they lead is frustrating, they all form one entity at this point and nothing makes sense to the eye. Disentanglement happens somewhere between the two points. It’s gently tugging on strands to see what gives and what doesn’t, and keeping your eyes open to notice patterns and signs that you’re moving in the right direction. I’ll probably go my whole life seeking comfort and looking for home in people and in things, like most everyone. But hopefully that won’t drive my choices every day. Maybe only sometimes.

I Do Not Have to Be Good by Emily Keener was independently released Friday, May 22nd , 2020

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Snarls spent 2019 quietly blooming. Two songs landed this Columbus, OH four-piece on Stereogum’s Top 100 Songs and Best New Bands to watch this year. With that running start in mind, 2020 is when they’ll surely blossom into a band to watch. Debut LP “Burst” finds the next charming coming-of-age story in shimmering character drama (2019 standout “Walk in the Woods”), woozy indie-pop (“Hair”), and blue-eyed existentialism (“Concrete”). Snarls’ songwriting is as unfiltered and spectral as growing into one’s own should be, but it promises just as an enchanting listen for those outside looking in. It’s no wonder MTV tried to brand Snarls‘ enchanting indie rock as promising “the best of emo and shoegaze” or that the band themselves sees themselves as the fore bearers of “glitter emo alt rock.” Snarls is fresh, frenzied, and worth fawning over. You’ll just have to find out on your own.

This is knock-out indie-pop that looks forward by all the while looking back to the past by taking a more than a passing interest in late 80s and early 90s indie… guitar riffs a go-go, fuzzy bass, a dash of shoegazy soundscapes and a hint of psychedelia all wrap around self-deprecating lyrics and gorgeous vocals… this is one killer of an album which makes you want to trawl the band’s back-catalogue… seriously, what’s not to like here?”

Released March 6th, 2020

Snarls is Chlo White (Vocals, Guitar), Riley Hall (Bass, Vocals), Mick Martinez (Guitar), and Max Martinez (Drums).
All songs written and performed by Snarls. “Burst” is out now on CD/Digital via Take This To Heart Records.

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Columbus, Ohio, four-piece Snarls have shared a new track, “What’s It Take,” from their forthcoming debut album Burst, due out on March 6th via Take This to Heart Records. “What’s It Take” is the kind of lustrous, yearning indie anthem that could only come from a group of bright young minds. Lyrically, it’s an emotional hurricane with Chloe White’s forlorn lyrics exploding into their guitar shimmers.

The song melds widescreen dream-pop with sputtering background guitars as White’s rich vocals hover in heartbreakingly beautiful fashion.

Band Members
Chlo White – Vocals, Guitar
Riley Hall – Bass, Vocals
Mick Martinez – Guitar
Max Martinez – Drums

Snarls – “What’s It Take?” From their upcoming album “Burst” Out March 6th via Take This To Heart Records