Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Afternoon Show with Cheryl Waters, is “Farewell Transmission” by Songs: Ohia from the 2013 album The Magnolia Electric Co. (10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) on Secretly Canadian.
Equally indebted to ’70s singer/songwriters, outlaw country, southern rock, and lo-fi, Jason Molina’s work as Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co. presented him as one of the most unique songwriters of the 2000s. Molina’s musical career began in his native Ohio, where his first songs as Songs: Ohia began taking shape. His penchant for alternative country-leaning trends within indie rock circles won him underground respect, but it wasn’t until 2003’s Magnolia Electric Co. that Molina found a focused style and a fairly constant band to back him up. The same year, Molina began operating under two monikers: his solo work would be released by his birth name, while his band work would be released under Magnolia Electric Co. Molina continued to record and tour with both outfits until late 2009, when he abruptly cancelled his European tour with Will Johnson three days before it was to begin, citing “present health issues”. Two years later, Molina’s family posted a note to his website explaining that he had sought treatment for alcoholism across the past year, something Molina would confirm the next year in another note. Tragically, Jason Molina died of alcohol abuse-related organ failure on March 16th in Indianapolis. He was 39. His final release in his lifetime was the spare set of previously unreleased tunes Autumn Bird Songs in 2012.
As an opening statement to one of his strongest albums, “Farewell Transmission” is stunning, but as an epitaph, it is even more harrowing. Clocking in at over seven minutes, the song gives Molina plenty of time to stretch out musically, running through multiple verses “Tangled Up In Blue”-style. As he traverses through the dark narrative, Molina is augmented by backing singers, guitarists, ragged drums, but at the end of the song, no one has outshone him. There are a number of lyrics that could be quoted as a thematic summation of “Farewell Transmission”, but the final line pays Molina a darkly fitting tribute: “Long dark blues/listen”.
At the time of his death, Molina was working with his label on a series of archival projects, so keep an eye on the label’s page to hear about any of those future releases. For now, watch the video for the track “A Little At A Time”: