Magnolia Electric Co.

"Human hearts and pain should never be separate," Jason Molina sings in "The Dark Don't Hide It," the first song on this live CD by his Bloomington, Indiana-based group Magnolia Electric Co. That's a pretty handy crystallization of Molina's work over the past decade, both with Magnolia and with Songs: Ohia, an earlier, more prolific band familiar to alt-country fans and people who occasionally encounter the "S" section in used record stores. Musically, Molina has defined his career arc by gradually increasing the strung-out '70s-guitar grandeur of his desolation blues; where he once collected Will Oldham comparisons like beard clippings, now he's always likened to Neil Young. It's a similarity I'm hardly in a position to refute. Most of the songs on Trials & Errors (as much as you can tell them apart) throb with the rambling sludge-folk power of post-hippie Young slabs like Tonight's the Night and On the Beach, and Molina gets the same sort of mournful heartbreak out of his pinched, reedy voice as Young does. If the interminable gloom of his lyrical outlook threatens to suffocate any spark of life, it's buoyed by his and guitarist Jason Groth's endless, intertwined solos. They suggest not everything that goes on forever has to hurt.
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Mikael Wood