PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Molasses: Trouble at Jinx Hotel

Justin Cober-Lake

Molasses

Trouble at Jinx Hotel

Label: Alien8 Recordings
US Release Date: 2004-05-31
UK Release Date: 2004-06-21
Amazon
iTunes

Molasses is less a band and more a collective, an assortment of Montreal musicians from other groups. Trouble at Jinx Hotel, the collaborators' fourth album, began with Scott Chernoff's simple guitar songs. He then invited artists from Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the Shalabi Effect, Codeine, and other groups to flesh out his pieces, primarily through improvisation. The process sounds like one that would lead to a disjointed album with an aura of randomness, but the 16 musicians featured on the disc have managed to produce a cohesive album with gentle orchestration and a steady tone of slightly experimental Americana.

Trouble at Jinx Hotel opens with a distant air-raid siren on "Siren's Song". The noise accurately reflects not alarm, but distance. These songs aren't the sound that wakes you up with a jolt in the middle of the night, but the kind that hover about as you slip in and out of sleep. Chernoff whispers, "We're frightened, and sickened / And utterly strickened," and he spells out the feelings of his narrators. The songs' slow tempos and easy movement belie the strong feelings of the lyrics.

These passions extend beyond the personal and into the political. "La La La, Amerika" rolls right out of its predecessor "Siren's Song" with continuing music, but adds lyrics based on the Statue of Liberty's inscription. "We're tired, Mother, and we're poor / We're wretched at your teeming shore / We're homeless and tossed by the storm," sings Chernoff as he looks in the dark for the light of the US. He doesn't find it, and the closing violins shift being a voice of melancholy to being one of longing.

This brief expression doesn't mean that Molasses is a group that's vocally leftist. The band's concerns tend to stay to the individual, but do examine her place in her culture. "Saint Christopher's Blues" asks the question, "Why are you so terrified?" among slow piano and violin. In the world that Molasses constructs, the lostness doesn't reside only because of one's heart, but because of the frightful condition of the world. Molasses follows this song about being lost with "Sign of Judgment", which worries about the place of justice and religion. The ambient noises keep the sense of fear prevalent even as the folk music and the soft vocals maintain their balance.

By this point in Trouble at Jinx Hotel, Molasses has provided four strong songs, but it's varied its sound very little. "Lynn Canyon Wedding Song" provides a slightly softer touch even with its subtle background psychedelia, but it's no longer a captivating sound. Fortunately, sharp back-up vocals on the chorus line "Take me back east" throw a new feeling into the mix, but it doesn't shift gears enough. "Lynn Canyon Wedding Song" is a pretty little number despite some throwaway lines ("I came for Abel / You came for Cain / And we danced on the table / Between the cradle and the grave"), but it represents the beginning of the album's one weakness: it's repetitive.

That said, each of the songs stands up well on its own. The album works well as mood-setting background music, and its few moments of experimentation add to the CD without feeling jarring. Many of the songs warrant multiple listens, but getting through the album from start-to-finish proves to be a little difficult due to the pervasive sameness. It's surprising, because each track is so well-orchestrated and beautifully performed. All Trouble at Jinx Hotel needs are a few changes in tempo or instrumentation to really be a powerful album; instead, it comes just so close.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.