Posts Tagged ‘Tony Molina’

RSTB Best of 2018

So, it seems that 2018 is finally coming to an end. It’s been a hell of a year by most standards, but musically its been damn entertaining. Perhaps its fair that there’s some bright spot in all the chaos. Not to diminish the chaos, but when the negativity is at an all-pervasive fever pitch, its feels good to have something to hold onto. I’ll choose to remember 2018 as a banner year for music and for the birth of my second daughter rather than the year that page refresh politics threatened to give me an ulcer any day. Below are my favorite albums of the year, taking care to highlight some that might otherwise get forgotten. They’re in (quasi) alphabetical order with no other particular weight on the list. Keep your eyes out for a few more year-end features this week before I reset for the new year. As always, thanks for sticking with RSTB for these 12-odd years or so.

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Tony Molina

I continue to be floored by how much punch Tony Molina can pack into about fifteen full minutes of material. His albums are exercises in self-restraint, picking out heartbreaking hooks and using them once or twice before the man walks away leaving audiences wanting much, much more. His songs never sound half-finished though – despite their length – they simply breeze into all of our lives, soften our hearts and flutter on back home to Tony’s power pop soul. Call them indie pop jingles or compact-size singles, but Molina remains a master craftsman of the sort of digestible pop that can be absorbed in full over the course of a state mandated fifteen-minute retail break.

As has been well noted, here and elsewhere, the second album, like the EP that preceded it has softened the crunch from Molina’s Ocasek-era Weezer / early Fanclub leanings. He’s dug out the twelve-string here and has clearly been listening to the most tender-hearted moments of the Byrds catalog. He’s sopping up the tears shed by teens finding solace in Elliott Smith’s oeuvre and he’s still not done with the likes of Norman Blake and the boys in Fanclub’s van. He’s just moved on to their own softer side. On Kill The Lights Molina combines all these influences into a power pop pit stop that’s bittersweet, but blissful, and absolutely one of the most touching albums of the year.

More than a punk in folk’s clothing, Molina has grafted the economical length of punk’s attention span to lush arrangements that are anything but frugal when it comes to production. These are mini-epics of pop squeezed into snow globes and they dazzle with their ornate details. Every time this album comes to an end I find myself turning it back on all over again. The songs on Kill The Lights are stunners one and all and I’m pretty sure this could just be set on a loop and keep a room at attention for well past an hour. Tony might dole out his gifts in small packages, but he’s an argument in favor of quality over quantity to say the least.



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Tony Molina – “Wrong Town”

Every new bit from Tony is better than the last. His upcoming sophomore LP for Slumberland is fully entrenched in his acoustic persona, wedging his songs between the heartbroken strains of Elliott Smith, Emmitt Rhodes and the gentlest bits of the Davies brothers. “Wrong Town” is practically begging for Wes Anderson to write the scene it belongs in, throwing the bittersweet gauntlet down in a one minute challenge. From the sounds of the first couple of tracks off of this Molina is well on his way to a newly minted classic. As usual each song gets its hooks into and then fades away like a memory gone too soon. Damned evil in that way, leaving the listener always wanting just a touch more.

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Tony Molina – “Nothing I Can Say”

Damn right its time for a new Tony Molina jam and the word that a full length is on the way from California’s favorite punk turned soft shell power popper is well received around here. Molina’s sticking with brevity as his bread and butter and that means that this one clocks in just a touch over one minute long, but what a minute it is. Firmly dialed into his Teenage Fanclub adoration, the song doesn’t waste a minute, proving that while most bands would spin out into a couple more choruses to hang that nougaty verse TM can do in only one. I guess if you disagree you can always just lock this on repeat and hunker down into a “Nothing I Can Say” loop. Sounds pretty tempting to me actually.



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Tony Molina on Judee Sill – S/T

Racking up some great installments of the Hidden Gems series as we come into the end of the year. This time Tony Molina picks out a record that he feels has been overlooked and reveals how its impacted him personally. Tony’s pick, Judee Sill’s nuanced, 1971 eponymous debut. The record has been a longtime collector’s favorite and only recently come back into the popular canon through some much needed reissues. Those who’ve heard Molina’s latest EP for Slumberland would note the shift in tone from his earlier songwriting and it seems that Sill’s masterpiece would have quite a bit of impact on his migration to a softer sound. Tony explains how the record came into his sphere of influences and just how much it’s made an impression on how he approaches songwriting.

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Tony Molina – “See Me Fall”

Tony’s back and its short and sweet and this time the plug’s knocked out for an acoustic bite into his jingle-sized universe of pop hits. Heading more for the Lennon-McCartney or Davies-Davies axis than the Black-Deal or Cuomo-Sharp axis this time around, Molina still proves that he’s able to pack more emotional heft into a scant minute than most songwriters are able to punch into a whole album. There’s a sad lilt to “See Me Fall” and its only compounded by the fact that the song leaves you hanging on the edge waiting for more. Molina’s become the master of building tiny pop dioramas that whisper into your brain and take root, not only because they’re quick to the hook, but because like so many great offerings in life they just seem to dissolve before you can get enough of them. Great to have him back, even if it is in the short format. It’s telling though that Molina can pack eight songs onto a 7″ to be sure.


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Smiles – EP

San Francisco’s Melters label has an impeccable ear for pop with all the gooey charm, power chord explosions and healthy-sized crushes on our favorite childhood bands. Turning out records from Tony Molina, Ovens, and Swiftumz, they now present the debut 7″ from Smiles; a band that snuggles up equally to Teenage Fanclub and early Primal Scream (before they got better pills). Like labelmate Molina, they’ve got a knack for brevity, though they don’t leave you hanging on wanting just one more verse of pop crushed perfection as he would. But they do smear the speakers with moody maneuvers and chunky riffs and then bring things down in perfect precision with a strummer that chokes up the dreamers on its way out the door. Its a pretty good showing for a first release and one that does what a good first EP should, leaves me wanting way more from this band.




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