this just arrived in the post today here in the antipodes. i felt the package in the dark as i rummaged in the letterbox. i otherwise would not cut straight to the chase, but this was a collection of music i have waited for, and it seems odd to have listened to it and not write about it. the first thing to notice with a cursory glance at the track listings is that graveface records obviously let artists choose their songs, because a few appear more than once across the two discs.
as soon as i heard mark kozelek’s voice singing it’s easier now as the first song on the first disc, north star, i wept. i was trying to make dinner. i stood in the doorway feeling like my head was going to explode and my heart would melt out through my feet.
every artist’s contribution here is beautiful and deeply affecting. some faithfully render the songs as you expect/hope. damien jurado even sounds like jason in an unusual way and almost not like himself singing i’ve been riding with the ghost. similarly, phil elverum does immense justice to just be simple. and to round out the first disc, hospital ships use only hand claps, thumping and harmonies to create a phenomenal version of hammer down.
i am overjoyed with the number of female artists who have contributed as well. the characters of the songs are changed in remarkable ways. a great example is lioness as performed by lisa li-lund. it’s not immediately endearing, given the minor-key beauty of the original, but her interpretation works on a new level. and for something spectacular, listen to corrina scanlon’s version of it costs you nothing.
on the second disc, crossroads, the two amazing versions of farewell transmission by brown bird and jeffrey lewis cut to the core. there’s also something more than a little unusual to hear the second take on just be simple being sung in a broad british accent by jack hayter. meanwhile, jonathan meiburg of shearwater and formerly okkervil river does an admirable somehow quieter-than-the-original set piece for didn’t it rain, one of my favourite molina songs.
i have also spent quite a lot of time in recent months revisiting the molina/johnson collaboration, actually before jason passed away. it was another pitchfork review with which i wholeheartedly disagreed. and here, will johnson’s quietish account of the big game is every night transmits the most pure emotions.
i can’t really treat this collection in any internally comparative way. all we genuinely have are the external comparisons to the originals. i can’t help but be moved and amazed by some in particular, as described above. and as i scanned the contributors, i was taken aback to see a gorgeous australian artist, darren hanlon, had contributed hold on magnolia. it’s not just because i’m parochial that i think it’s the most beautiful rendition here.
there’s something about all these different musicians paying tribute to jason molina that made me exponentially sadder for his departure, but uplifted by the knowledge that he genuinely will never be forgotten when this many excellent people keep playing him and recalling him.