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Molina and Johnson: Molina and Johnson (Secretly Canadian)

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Molina and Johnson, a collaboration that brings together Jason Molina (Songs: Ohia, Magnolia Electric Co.) and Will Johnson (Centro-matic, South San Gabriel), is a gorgeous, spartan collection of haunted folk songs. Written and recorded in a 10-day span, the album's skeletal songs succeed primarily because Molina and Johnson are legitimate songwriters.

Incorporating everything from the singing saw (Johnson's fevered "All Gone, All Gone") to Rhodes piano (Molina's creeping "For as Long as It Will Matter"), Molina and Johnson exhibit craftsmanship in their evocative use of minimalism. Although the two only sing together on one track—the lush, beautiful "Almost Let You In"—the album does not suffer from the lack of vocal exchanges.

Johnson is commanding on opener "Twenty Cycles to the Ground," a lovely dirge with whistling electronics and yawning guitar, while Molina is masterly on the stunning, building "The Lily and the Brakeman." Even the hummed, rattling spiritual "Now, Divide" works both thematically and musically.

Additionally, Molina and Johnson benefit from the way their vocals meld themselves to the material. Johnson's smoky warble on the bleak "In the Avalon/Little Killer" is achingly tender, and Molina's clear tenor on the mournful ballad "All Falls Together" is perfectly assured.

If there is a failing, it's the lack of variety: Certainly, given their work with their respective units, both musicians are fully capable of the kind of dirty, amplified rock noticeably absent here. Nonetheless, what remains is a fantastic wintery album of stark folk.

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