Magnolia Electric Co.: “Josephine“
You’d think that Jason Molina, lead songwriter of Magnolia Electric Co., would be pretty close to writing the perfect break-up song by now. After all, he’s had roughly 14 records (between Songs:Ohia, Magnolia Electric Co., and solo, not including live albums) worth of them to work out his approach. But he’s pretty close on “Josephine,” the title track from his group’s upcoming album. At the very least, he knows exactly where to get started. “I turned your life so upside down/ I don’t know how you stayed or why,” he sings over melancholy guitars and heavy barroom piano chords. Indeed, several lessons from Molina’s decade-plus of sad-music-making are put to good practice here. Namely, “You don’t have to play super-slow,” and “It’s ok to love Bob Seeger.”
Sa-Ra Creative Partners: “Bitch Baby“
Los Angeles-based production group Sa-Ra Creative Partners’ contributions to Erykah Badu’s New Amerykah Part One (4th Wold War) met or exceeded that singer’s propensity for weirdness, which was no mean feat. “Bitch Baby,” from the forthcoming double-CD Nuclear Evolution: The Age of Love, proves that when left to its own devices Sa-Ra is just as, if not more, bizarre. There are slithering group vocals, suggestive lyrics, and fuzzy nods to vintage Funkadelic, all floating randomly through a flowing stream of off-kilter samples.
Jay Reatard: “It Ain’t Gonna Save Me“
Jay Reatard is, if nothing else, one of the last true purveyors of the punk-accent. On “It Ain’t Gonna Save Me” he places the emphasis on the brattiest syllable of each phrase with such an artful touch that even The Dead Milkmen should be jealous. “All is lost there is no hope for me,” he repeats over the song’s final throes, giving it all he’s got, singing as if the vocal were being recorded into a giant lollipop instead of a microphone.
Eels: “That Look You Give That Guy“
As the ’90sde came to a close E, the brain behind Eels, grew a unibomber beard, locked himself indoors, and holed up while the tornado of boy band-mania swept away Matthew Sweet, Grant Lee Phillips, and a generation’s worth of alt-rock crooners. It worked, though. He’s still here, setting soft, melancholy melodies to hip-hop beats. “The Look You Give That Guy,” currently streaming on the Eels’ myspace, along with the rest of new album Hombre Lobo, dusts off that formula and, pleasantly, it’s no worse for the wear.