Jason Molina (Magnolia Electric Co., Songs: Ohia) and Will Johnson (Centro-Matic, South San Gabriel) are two of the most prolific songwriters penning music today, both in quantity and quality of the work. They are tireless, writing and releasing volumes under a variety of names, and each track is approached with inherent craft, the vivid details and gritty portraits brimming with life and loss.
As Molina & Johnson, the two have converged for an eponymous studio release that draws on the duo’s songwriting and exposes the similarities between the two. And while the 13 tracks sparkle at times – the bare-hearted opener “Twenty Cycles the Ground,” the subterranean “All Falls Together,” and the lilting “Almost Let You In” are highlights – several of the compositions flicker quickly, then fade into the ether with hallow resonance. The haunting “All Gone, All Gone” is broken by rusted guitar and Theremin, and “Lenore’s Lullaby” aches with little relief, the players exchanging lead and support roles throughout, their distinct styles diminishing the notion of true collaboration.
Make no mistake: Molina & Johnson captures two of today’s preeminent songwriters writing songs, spinning tales, and exploring each other’s musical spaces. Despite bright flourishes in their individual performances, the collaborative spirit of this album never truly emerges from the darkness.
Molina & Johnson is out now on Secretly Canadian.