So The Reigning Sound and Molina and Johnson. Molina and Johnson first.
This is one I’m frothing for, which is dumb. Jason Molina is the singer/guitarist/songwriter for The Magnolia Electric Company and Songs: Ohia, and Will Johnson is the singer/guitarist/songwriter for Centro-Matic (one of my favorite bands) and South San Gabriel (one of my favorite side projects). It’s dumb to get excited about this, because everything about it screams casual. The press release Secretly Canadian has given did all but tell you “seriously guys, don’t get too hopped up about this one. It was just 10 days, really, and all the guys did was jam.” The first MP3 that’s been given out “Twenty Circles to the Ground” follow’s through with the press releases prediction, windshield wiper drummer and low gas flame guitar plus Molina’s gravelin gravedigger singing open mic at a bar in west Texas voice. It’s a great song, but it’s about as inauspicious as they could’ve gone, both as an initial public offering from their label and as the leadoff track on the album. Getting too excited for this is forcing yourself to drink three cans of sparks even though you hate the stuff and ride a tandem bike (solo) across town to what you think is going to be the rager of the year, only to find two close friends sitting under christmas lights shooting the shit and the two of them just can’t stop laughing. Still, despite the potential health risk involved, I’m standing firm, and getting more hyped than the hype machine about this one. It comes out on election day on Secretly Canadian.
I wonder if there are scientists obsessed with vocal chords of singers; whether some maniac in a lab coat exhumed Patsy Cline to see what makes a singer sing heartbreak or x-rayed Elliott Smith to see how every word he sings sounds more passive aggressive than the last. Because anyone can sing anything, but there’s something, and I’ll leave it to the scientists to figure out what, that makes a singer just sell a song. Garage rock’s a genre where more than most, there’s a lot resting on the singer, because the music of most garage rock bands is interchangeable, punk meets blues in the break room of a steel fabrication shop and the two throw down their coffee cups and start tearing at eachother’s guts. You need something to steer the music, to shape it. Greg Cartwright, more than any other singer in the genre that I know of, makes you feel the words. His voice tears itself out for some of these songs. Greg’s voice can be defiant, angry, wounded, and, on the rarest of occasions, something approaching alright. Greg’s current band, The Reigning Sound just released a new album this year, and while it won’t quite submerge you like their last, Too Much Guitar, the nuances gives it a greater range.
Put another way: here’s greg’s live take (and then, the full band version) on his song “Stop and Think It Over.” Here’s The Hives performing the same song in front of, probably 20,000 fans. Just look at what the vocals do her