You had to know this was coming; you had to know that a combination of these two men could lead you to nothing but greatness. Jason Molina and Will Johnson live two separate lives. One man, Jason, fronts Magnolia Electric Co, while the other hangs out in Texas and fronts Centromatic, not to mention his own solo stuff under the name, surprisingly, Will Johnson. United, they have risen above their individual prowess and united to make a conglomerate of sad-bastard music that surpasses most everything else that came our way this year, in regards to that particular genre at least.
When you first hear “Twenty Cycles to the Ground” you immediately feel the comfort of home. Will Johnson‘s voice always sounds like your aged father singing on the back porch with his acoustic guitar in his hand. At the same time, the warmth of Molina accents the throatier moments from Johnson. Such a natural harmonization could not be imagined in this mind.
And for the larger part of this album, you encounter such beautiful moments time and time again. “Almost Let You In” sees the two gents casually trading vocal duties over gentle piano structures and simple strumming of acoustic elements. There is such a clarity in the music that can only come from its simplicity, leading the listeners to the height of audial enlightenment; such as it is when the two combine near the end of the song, just as the piano begins to carry you away.
You are not very likely to find anything overtly beautiful and fanciful in this album. It seems steeped in a sense of melancholy, which is mostly due to the instrumentation. Yet, despite the down-trodden mood simulated by the instrumentation, nothing is as enchanting as Will Johnson walking quietly through his songs, with throaty vocals intact, pushing you to the edge of your bed, grasping, no, hanging, on every last syllable that he emits. The light in this album comes largely from Molina, however.
Take, for example, “The Lily and The Brakeman,” one of the songs that only goes to Molina. There is a different emotional appeal in his vocal delivery, and as it yanks on your heartstrings, it also seems to soothe you just a bit more than his counterpart. This is precisely why this album is such a wonderful collection of songs. There exists a perfect juxtaposition between the warble of Johnson and the calm delivery of Molina, both captivating, and both working together in unison. Together, they’ve created an album that seems born of the past, only to live in the current landscape.
Not a moment on this album is really discardable; not a one. Perhaps the off moments will be off-putting to casual listeners, but once you immerse yourself in the waters of Molina & Johnson, you’ll feel as if you’ve been washed in one of the most masterful collaborations. Do yourself a favor and get lost in the world of these two, as you’re likely to never want to leave.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/almostletyouin.mp3]
Download: Molina & Johnson – Almost Let You In [MP3]