My initial fascination in Jason Molina and the Songs: Ohia crew began with a small, albeit inaccurate description of his music. It explained his songwriting past, including but not limited to blues, country, and metal. Although I still don't understand the last genre comparison to this day, the point it was trying to make was plenty clear to me. Jason Molina is a renaissance man of genre, and no matter how much he changes his sound, he's never going to do much wrong.
Such is the case with his much anticipated and even more delayed follow-up to 2003's damnnearperfect Magnolia Electric Co., Pyramid Electric Co. If I remember correctly, this entire album was actually recorded in 2001, around the time that my favorite Songs album, Didn't It Rain, was composed. Even without knowledge of the time of its recording, any Songs fan will automatically recognize the sound and could more or less figure out around when it was written.
Don't be mistaken, though, this album, while resembling Didn't It Rain in many places, is quite different. While stripped-down, Didn't It Rain featured exquisite backup vocals, which can be credited to Jennie Benford among others, and flawless accompaniment. But how well can Molina do on his own? Can his own vocals and instrumental talent carry an entire album, and can it do justice to his songwriting? Of course it can! I already told you: Jason Molina can't do much wrong, and going solo, literally, is one of those things.
On each song, Molina travels even further out of familiar songwriting territory, cutting out more accompaniment than even Will Oldham would on any given album. I would be hard pressed to find highlights on Pyramid, because unlike Magnolia, the album is better than the sum of its parts. I guess I would identify my most-enjoyed tracks as the ones with the most melody, which would be "Honey Watch Your Ass," "Song of the Road," and "Spectral Alphabet." While his trademark quiver, croon and quaver vocals carry the most weight in making this kind of album work, there is very little rhythm or melody holding any of the songs together. He trails off, pauses, and does these things as much as he pleases without the music suffering. The result is an album that is absolutely worth the time and patience you will invest in it, while of course sacrificing much of Magnolia's accessibility.
9.0 / 10
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