Magnolia Electric Co.

Magnolia Electric Co.

Magnolia Electric Co.

Trials & Errors

Secretly Canadian

Never in my wildest dreams have I imagined Midwest Americana sounding like Viking thunder, but Magnolia Electric Co.’s Trials & Errors fits the bill nicely. Recorded live slightly south of Scandinavia, in Brussels, Belgium, Jason Molina and his newly formed touring band do their best to slough off the slowcore skin of Molina’s former project, Songs: Ohia, and embrace the hard rock of their ’70s forefathers. Knowing that his fans deserve more than a simple rehashing of old material, Molina includes only three Ohia songs on the night’s set list: “Almost Was Good Enough” from Magnolia Electric Co. and “Ring the Bell” and “Cross the Road” off Didn’t it Rain.

Of the remaining seven songs, three will be on the band’s forthcoming LP, with the rest unlikely to see studio treatment. It hasn’t been disclosed which of these tracks will be revisited, but in any case, the “live only” songs make this disc essential listening for fans. I defy anyone to hear anything but Bob Seger in his glory days — and, yes he did have them — on the slow burning, nocturnally fascinated “North Star” or the modern, darker reworking of “Turn the Page” on “The Last 3 Human Words,” with a Morricone-ian trumpet replacing the lonely saxophone. The soaring horn melody of “Leave This City” is also a nice respite from the howling dustbowl maelstrom that permeates most songs and recalls spaghetti western scores and dusky southwestern vistas.

At over 77 minutes, the album is an exhausting listen, but having witnessed a MEC live show, I can testify Trials & Errors is a completely accurate and awe-inspiring document. I can’t wait for the next one.

Secretly Canadian: www.secretlycanadian.com

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