Music

My Morning Jacket / Songs: Ohia: Split EP

Andrew Gilstrap

My Morning Jacket / Songs: Ohia

Split EP

Label: Jade Tree
US Release Date: 2002-03-19
Amazon
iTunes

Excellent songwriters toiling away in relative obscurity is nothing new, but in the case of My Morning Jacket and Songs: Ohia, it feels like more of a travesty than usual. The Louisville, Kentucky-based My Morning Jacket is known for a lonesome sound that seems destined to be heard in the dark, on stereos surrounded by empty beer bottles at three a.m. Songs: Ohia is the brainchild of Jason Molina, whose vocal and instrumental approach bear a striking resemblance to Palace/Palace Brothers/Palace Music/Bonnie Prince Billy master-mind Will Oldham. It might seem strange to throw the two acts together on a split EP, but the reality is that they both share a lot of common ground: emotional anguish, driven artistic purpose, and a sense of atmospherics that just won't quit.

My Morning Jacket start things off with four of the EP's five songs, and immediately show that there's no shortage of talent in their toolbox. The band's country leanings, though, are but a faint shadow on these densely packed songs. "O is the One that is Real" kicks off with a snare drum and a killer guitar line. It also shows an immediate kinship to Songs: Ohia in its shadowy sound and heartfelt vocals. Bandleader Jim James sings, "Always leave your televisor on / Always give your answers by the phone / If you're hurt he wants to feel it / If you've money he's your dealer / If you're ready for him I don't want to see it." Then a chorus of "Oh. O is the one that is real" kicks in, aided by a light synth line. James then repeats the lines, but the effect isn't redundant. His voice between a wail and a moan, James creates an almost hypnotic litany of despair before kicking things into the next gear for the outro, an emo-like blend of screams, frenzied guitars, and clashing instruments.

"How Do You Know" feels like a church service as heard through a demerol haze. A chorus of voices drones before James comes in with a falsetto reminiscent of Neil Young; the rest of the band pulls off a sweeping arrangement that sounds like a combination of alt-country and Al Green. It's a song like this that makes the comparisons to Young and bands like the Flaming Lips so inevitable. My Morning Jacket's arrangements are slyly aggressive; they insinuate themselves into your head before you know that they've even battered down your defenses. Few bands since the Cure have done such a masterful job of adding sweep and majesty to pain.

To a lesser extent, "Come Closer" pulls off the same trick, but it's nowhere near as strong as the first two cuts. It sways in time to James' gentle falsetto, but it has the feel of a band receding into the darkness, as if to say "we exhausted ourselves on the first two cuts." "Come Closer" is wispy and ethereal, and would mark a fine segue to the Songs: Ohia portion of the disc if it weren't for "The Year in Review", which is apparently the disc's three My Morning Jacket songs played with the fast-forward button held down. It does nothing to further the mood set by James and company, but it does at least clear the way for the Songs: Ohia cut.

It might initially seem unfair that Songs: Ohia gets only one song to My Morning Jacket's four, but "Translation" clocks in at over 10 minutes, so it asserts its presence. It's textbook Songs: Ohia, with Molina crooning over a sleepy arrangement that sounds so dreamy you're afraid it might dissipate once it ends. "Translation" doesn't come close to capturing the same power as top-notch Molina compositions like "Lioness" or "Nervous Bride", but it provides a perfect roadmap for the Songs: Ohia experience. It also contains what on paper looks like a heaven-sent pairing of indie hermits, since Will Oldham actually provides backing/harmony vocal duties. It sounds like he's about 20 feet away and at the bottom of an emotional well, so while it's not exactly a duet, Oldham's vocals certainly provide a spooky layer to the song.

All in all, this split EP acts as a good introduction to both bands. While the My Morning Jacket songs sound a bit murkier than the band's usual work, "O is the One that is Real" is one of group's finest songs to date. Also, while the Songs: Ohia track doesn't hold any revelations, it's a great snapshot of the niche that Jason Molina has carved out for himself. Neither band is phoning it in, by any stretch (or even hoarding good material for their own proper releases), and you'll be hard-pressed to find a better sampler of sad, twilight-tinged music.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.


20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta


Keep reading... Show less
Film

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

Keep reading... Show less

Mary Poppins, Mrs. Gamp, Egyptian deities, a Japanese umbrella spirit, and a supporting cast of hundreds of brollies fill Marion Rankine's lively history.

"What can go up a chimney down but can't go down a chimney up?" Marion Rankine begins her wide-ranging survey of the umbrella and its significance with this riddle. It nicely establishes her theme: just as umbrellas undergo, in the everyday use of them, a transformation, so too looking at this familiar, even forgettable object from multiple perspectives transforms our view of it.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Those who regard the reclusive Argerich as one of the world's two or three greatest living pianists—classical or otherwise—would not have left the concert hall disillusioned.

In a staid city like Washington, D.C., too many concert programs still stick to the basics. An endless litany of Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky concerti clog the schedules and parades of overeager virtuosi seem unwilling to vary their repertoire for blasé D.C. concertgoers. But occasionally you encounter a concert that refreshes your perspective of the familiar. The works presented at The Kennedy Center on 25 October 2017 might be stalwarts of 20th century repertoire, but guest conductor Antonio Pappano, leading the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, reminded us how galvanizing the canonical can still be. Though grandiose executions of Respighi's The Fountains of Rome and The Pines of Rome were the main event, the sold-out crowd gathered to see Martha Argerich perform one of her showpieces, Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto. Those who regard the reclusive Argerich as one of the world's two or three greatest living pianists—classical or otherwise—would not have left the concert hall disillusioned.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image