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January 19, 2005 - Image 11

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2005-01-19

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The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, January 19, 2005 - 11

Molina changes name, channels


By Andrew M. Gaerig
Daily Music Editor
Jason Molina's stunning progression on record
- from moderately interesting folk to raging Crazy
Horse art-rock in about two years - has been paced
only by his progression as a live artist. In the proud

with age
on Love'
By Jacob Nathan
Daily Arts Writer
On her latest release, Everlasting
Love, pop diva Vanessa Williams,
grows into her age. In this mature
outing, Williams boldly sidesteps
the bloated and predictable produc-
tion of her peers in favor of more
old-fashioned sensibilities. She intel-

tradition of Americana artists
self-important schtick and got
themselves a kick-ass rock band
(looking at you, Bruce Springs-
teen), Molina has retired his
longstanding Songs: Ohia mon-
iker in favor of Magnolia Elec-
tric Co., a bristling, five-piece
behemoth that approximates
the ragged distortion of Neil

who dropped the
Electric Co.
Trials & Errors
Secretly Canadian
Young and Crazy

not giving in / That happened miles ago / I heard
the north star saying / 'Kid you're so lost, even
I can't bring you home.' " The guitars burn, the
drums hold steady and for nearly eight minutes, it
sounds like the clouds clear up.
These songs, along with the serenely plodding
"Don't This Look Like the Dark," represent the
synergy of Molina's considerable songwriting tal-
ent, his soulful voice and the band's loose jam. Else-
where, Molina reminds fans that this is a live album.
The shortest song in the 10-song set is well over five
minutes, while most run over seven. The band's
wandering never crosses into ugly self-indulgence,
but they do flirt with it. The reworkings of old favor-
ites like "Cross the Road" and "Almost Was Good
Enough" are both welcoming to old fans and dis-
tracting to anyone more interested in Molina's evo-
lution than his history. The last two tracks, including
the brutish "Big Beast," are enjoyable tour tracks
that should probably remain just that. Molina's debt
to Neil Young - which was never in question - is
cemented when he emerges from long instrumental
breaks with fragments of Young tracks ("Walk On"
and "Out on the Weekend").
Ultimately, though, these are the kinks that
bands iron out on the road, and this release sets up
the band's impending studio full-length brilliantly.
Even Molina newcomers should be able to forgive
the faults of this live disc. This is a powerful band
finding its first legs, playing American country/folk/
blues with a sincerity and passion that most bands
- especially underground bands - can't fathom.
Trials & Errors serves as a brilliant, impassioned
bridge to a sky-splittingly bright future.

Horse and the straightforward boogie of Creedence
Clearwater Revival.
If his recent live performances are to be believed,
Molina is himself a reformed man. No longer chas-
tising audiences for a lack of attention, he playfully
introduces guitar solos ("You still got something
to say about it?") and crooning like he's trying to
charm the sky out of raining on his classic rock
parade. Trials & Errors is the unit's first album as
a group, recorded on stage one night in Brussels.
Consisting of only three tracks from past albums,
the mostly new material has its share of road bruis-
es, but the band never falters, propping up Molina's
country-isms with joyous energy.
Molina hasn't completely abandoned his weary

Courtesy of Secretly Canadian

"Hey, I can see Vanessa,Wil jams from here."
persona - his lyrics still contain plenty of dreary
Midwestern hopelessness. The titles of the album's
first two songs contain the word "dark," and the
third track, "Such Pretty Eyes for a Snake," comes
closer to his he-man-woman-hater early work than
anything he's released in years. But for the most
part, his new work is imbued with a sense of for-
titude - sonically if not lyrically - that his prior

work lacked. The blissful jaunt of "The Dark Don't
Hide It" masks malicious intent, and the tempered
trumpet that interrupts the verse of "Leave the
City" is the sonic equivalent of a cigarette warm-
ing stubby fingers. "North Star," despite two
minutes of introductory noodling, is the album's
standout track. Molina's poetic verse merges with
aged American cliche as he moans: "Darling I'm

ligently opts for
a smoother musi-
cal approach that
highlights vocal
restraint instead of
excess. The overall
feel of the album
is a throwback to

Everlasting Love

the type of R&B popular throughout
the early '90s. At times, the promi-
nent bass in the backing can sound
dated, but Williams's spin on it is
enticing and seductive. With Ever-
lasting Love, Vanessa Williams has
produced an album that is simultane-
ously refreshing and nostalgic.
Instead of attacking the listener
with the soaring crescendos that
Whitney Houston was once famous
for, Williams uses the subtleties
of her voice to make a tantalizing
sound. By not attempting to cover
six octaves in a single bar (take
that, Mariah Carey), Williams stays
comfortably within her range. This
gives the album a relaxing feel, yet
when Williams does come out with
a bursting verse late in the song, it
still induces goosebumps.
The ' idea of love is brought to
the forefront on one of the album's
standout tracks, "Let's Love," a retro
groove that places a huge emphasis
on Williams's vocals and showcases
her greatest strengths as a vocalist.
She teases and tweaks all through
this song, with the tiny quirks of her
voice adding a dynamic layer to a
fairly standard track. As she plods
through lines that could suffer from
clich6d lyrics, she still maintains her
credibility by actually making the
song fun and spunky. Moments that
suffer from a lack of excitement are
actually made stimulating by the del-
icate dips of her voice and the razor-
sharp instrumentation.
In the song "Harvest for the
World," Williams expounds upon her
political views and mixes her pre-
tentious ideals with funky backing
musicianship. It's so good it could've
been recorded by Earth, Wind &
Fire. While what Williams is trying
to say gets lost, the song sounds so
good that it doesn't even matter.
The tracks on the album stay in
roughly the same territory, even the
missteps. "Never Can Say Good-
bye," a duet with George Benson,
is a poor track. The lyrics, sappy
and repetitive, are uninteresting,
and fail to capture the strengths of
Williams's voice. This song does,
however, fit within the overall tone
of the album.
"I'll Be Good To You," the album's
guilty pleasure, is Williams at her
most engaging. The games she plays
with her voice are intriguing and
overtly sexual. Just when her style
is reaching its pinnacle, soul pow-
erhouse James "D-Train" Williams
lends his vocals, turning the song
into a transcendent duet.
Everlasting Love will mainly
appeal to Williams fans, as it covers
little new ground. Nevertheless, it
still captures the voice and style that
have made her so well known. Over-
all, Williams has not only crafted
a cohesive album, but has also pro-
vided her listeners with a refreshing
take on tired R&B.





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