Album Review – Magnolia Electric Co by Songs: Ohia
Written by VIC Radio on March 26, 2021
By Arlo Catanzaro
I’ve have never been a huge fan of country music. Growing up in an extremely rural region I was exposed to country constantly, whether it be at school, in restaurants or my bus driver from Pre-K to Senior year always playing country. I do enjoy what I consider to be folk, but I had a special place in my heart for my hatred of country. It wasn’t until I listened to Magnolia Electric Co. by Songs: Ohia that I realized that country gets a bad rap.
Now, I still have a huge distaste for what I call Red-Neck country, where artists sing about how much they like to drive on their big green tractor and how their life is “sun-rise, sun-burn, sun-set”; but there are some truly great sub-genres of country, which are quite loosely defined, with Magnolia Electric Co. being considered alt-country and one of my friends described as Lo-Fi Americana which I think perfectly describes this album.
Jason Molina, or better known as his stage name Songs: Ohia, invokes the emptiness and sadness found in much of rural America. A sadness of being forgotten, of economies shrinking and people leaving. While Molina has always had a rather depressing tinge to all of his music Magnolia Electric Co. really demonstrates Molina grappling with the idea of a deterioration of Americana and blue-collar workers.
Use of guitar riffs and rhythms throughout the entire album are very subtle and while it is not the main drawing point it always brings me back for another listen. “Farwell Transmission” which is the intro track has an extremely soothing guitar rift at the beginning that allows for an excellent entrance for Molina vocals. This continues throughout the entire song with rhythm and lead guitar parts providing an excellent structure for Molina’s lyrics.
Magnolia Electric Co. has likely some of my favorite lyrics of all time. For an album describing blue-collar work and rough living it does so in a very imaginative and abstract way. Molina’s way of describing the depressed reality of rural America makes it seem that he is describing a world from another dimension. The way he describes everyday activities are similar to an anthropologist taking notes and allows us to have an outsider view of blue-collar American culture. In addition, the Molina invokes strong abstract imagery through lyrics such as “Momma here comes Midnight with the dead moon in its jaws. Must be the big star about to fall.” Molina adds a certain strange beauty and elegancy to this warped reality but at the same time gives a very depressed view of reality.
I first listened to Magnolia Electric Co. back in 2020 and I wanted to write a review but always could never find the right words to describe the album, the funny thing about Magnolia Electric Co. is there is no one factor that makes this album great. Everything perfectly blends together, from the musical components of the song, to the lyrics and even the album art really ties everything together. I will keep on coming back to Magnolia Electric Co. for years to come and I encourage anybody to at the very least check it out once. In addition, Molina formed a band called Magnolia Electric Co. which are also fantastic and he also has work under his real name; it is a terrible shame that he passed away in 2013 but he truly left behind some amazing music.