THE SWIFT LETDOWN OF DUSTIN’S ELECTRIC MAGNOLIA HOME
This is going to be an acoustic-themed CD review. Fading Trails is the latest release from Jason Molina’s latest inception, Magnolia Electric Company. This is a collection of songs that were recorded in various places, from the singer’s bedroom to the legendary Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. It’s got all the usual Molina-isms: beautifully crafted yet so simple hooks with his signature vocal characteristics. He definitely borrows from some of the better folk icons of our day, and yet they generally show through as inspiration only.
His Dylan whine is very subtle; his Springsteen mumble only comes out in the most somber of songs, but Molina’s true voice always shine through. Although I miss the experimenting Magnolia Electric Company ventured through with their self-titled CD, the newest effort from Molina and the Magnolia are a welcome addition to the ever growing collection of Jason Molina projects that I listen to on a daily basis. I have yet to see this man do wrong.
Richard Swift’s upcoming release, Dressed Up for the Letdown, is definitely my favorite of the bunch. Catchy music, distinct singing, and a very uplifting feeling glide over solemn content that would otherwise make a person want to commit Seppuku. Light and poppy music over almost macabre lyrics seem to be all the craze nowadays, but Swift is obviously not merely another cog in the machine; his heartfelt lyrics give the music an almost “Yeah life is pretty crappy sometimes, but don’t go killing yourself, emo boy” feeling to it.
It is well known that I have a penchant for troubadours who present both sides of the coin. Richard Swift isn’t a raging anti-government flag burner, or a tree-hugging, plane-crashing hippie (let’s see who gets that one); Swift is an entertainer and nothing more, and he doesn’t want to be anything else. I don’t feel that he wants to change the world, just make his mark in it.
Last but not least, we have the debut disc from Dustin Kensrue: Please Come Home. This man has dug himself such an important niche in popular music today with his monumentally successful band, Thrice, that I was worried that I was going to basically hear this whole album as though it were Thrice Unplugged, and not give the album a chance as its own piece of work.
I was instantly put at ease when the first song kicked off a Johnny Cash / Bruce Springsteen-esque ballad that Dustin’s rasp lays over quite nicely. A sharp turn from the guitar-driven, half-time heavy, harmonized screaming Thrice that we’re used to, the eight-song Please Come Home seems to be an inspirational journey of irreverent self preservation and the healing power of faith. Chris Jones and bandmate Teppei Teranishi add a warm, full sound to the mix and really liven up the already encompassing sound of our hero.
The thing I like about this album is that it doesn’t sound of a bunch of hardcore rock and/or rollers attempting to step outside of the box and explore something they know nothing about. Kensrue obviously has a connection with these songs, because they don’t sound trite or contrived; the message is very clear and well conveyed.
The only problem I have is that while the album is technically proficient and very well done, the style isn’t consistent and so sometimes it is hard to feel the sincerity on the first spin of the disc. I started getting into the country feel of the first two songs, and then he jumps into a thoughtful and inspirational song, then back to a charged song of adultery and robbery. But, I guess that is the struggle that collides within all of us, so it’s understandable to include the former and the latter.