[Updated with a statement from Molina's label, Secretly Canadian.]
This one hurts, badly.
Jason Molina, the songwriter behind the Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co. monikers as well as some solo recordings under his own name, died Saturday night after a long struggle with alcoholism. Chunklet broke the tragic news, as well as being the first to bring to light Molina's addiction problems a little over a year ago. Pitchfork states the cause of death due to "organ failure due to alcohol consumption."
Molina was famously prolific up until around 2007 or so, with the release of his Sojourner box set. A collaboration with Will Johnson followed, although you can tell by listening to it that all was not well (it is the most depressing record I can think of). Magnolia Electric Co.'s 2009 album Josephine was the last record of new material, although he had much unreleased material in the vaults that has appeared in one form or another since then.
With those countless, spellbinding Songs: Ohia releases and the handful of Magnolia Electric Co. records, there is a lot of documented Molina out there to love, although for me the recordings offered only a part of the picture. I only ever saw him with Magnolia Electric Co., his rock outfit, but those shows were always miraculously good. (I remember them doing a really great cover of Dusty Springfield's "Spooky" one night that I can still hear note-for-note in my head.) The thing I appreciated most about Molina is how he brought an everyday workingman's approach to music and songwriting, treating it like the honest craft or trade that it is. His songs always sought truth, never an easy game. It seems to have taken its toll on Molina. May he rest in peace.
Here's a video of Magnolia Electric Co. performing "Farewell Transmission" in Spain in 2005.
UPDATE: After the jump, an official statement from Molina's label, Secretly Canadian:
We are deeply saddened to announce that Jason Andrew Molina passed away in his home in Indianapolis this past Saturday, March 16th of natural causes at age 39. Jason was a world class musician, songwriter & recording artist. He was also a beloved friend. He first caught international attention in 1996 when he began releasing albums under the name Songs: Ohia. In 2003 he started the band Magnolia Electric Co. Between those two bands he released over a dozen critically-acclaimed albums and — starting in 1997 — he toured the world every year until he had to stop in 2009 to deal with severe alcoholism. Jason was incredibly humbled by his fans' support through the years and said that the two most important words he could ever say are "Thank you."
This is especially hard for us to share. Jason is the cornerstone of Secretly Canadian. Without him there would be no us — plain and simple. His singular, stirring body of work is the foundation upon which all else has been constructed. After hearing and falling in love with the mysterious voice on his debut single "Soul" in early 1996, we approached him about releasing a single on our newly formed label. For some reason he said yes. We drove from Indiana to New York to meet him in person, and he handed us what would become the first of many JMo master tapes. And with the Songs: Ohia One Pronunciation of Glory 7" we were given a voice as a label. The subsequent self-titled debut was often referred to by fans as The Black Album. Each Songs: Ohia album to follow proved a new, haunting thesis statement from a prodigal songwriter whose voice and soul burned far beyond that of the average twenty-something. There was organ-laced, sepia-toned econimica (1998's Impala) and charred-hearted, free form balladry (1999's Axxess and Ace). There were the dark glacial make-out epics of 2000's The Lioness and the jungle incantations of 2000's Ghost Tropic. There was the career-defining agnostic's gospel of 2002's Didn't It Rain, an album about setting roots that also seemed to offer solace to a world that had recently seen its bar on terror raised. It was followed in 2003 by a thrilling about-face, the instant classic Magnolia Electric Co., which took Jason's songwriting to '70s classic rock heights. The move was such a powerful moment for Molina that Magnolia Electric Co. became the new moniker under which he would perform until 2009. With Magnolia Electric Co., Jason found a brotherhood in his bandmates, with whom he built an incredible live experience and made a truly classic album in Josephine (2009).
We're going to miss Jason. He was generous. He was a one of a kind. And he had a voice unlike any other.
Fans can contribute to Jason's medical fund as a memorial gift by sending money via PayPal.
Hold on, Magnolia, to that great highway moon
No one has to be that strong
But if you're stubborn like me
I know what you're trying to be
Hold on, Magnolia, I hear that station bell ring
You might be holding the last light I see
Before the dark finally gets a hold of me
Hold on, Magnolia, I know what a true friend you've been
In my life I have had my doubts
But tonight I think I've worked it out with all of them
Hold on, Magnolia, to the thunder and the rain
To the lightning that has just signed my name to the bottom line
Hold on, Magnolia, I hear that lonesome whistle whine
Hold on, Magnolia, I think its almost time