If you haven’t checked in with Jason Molina
since his Songs: Ohia days—when he crafted darkly glittering epics from shards of guitar and bombastic vocals—the crunchy rawk stomp of What Comes After the Blues
’ opening track, “The Dark Don’t Hide It”, will come as quite a shock. If his old songs sounded like Neil Young’s shattering on the floor, his new material finds him carefully, almost apologetically, reconstructing the pieces.
Molina cites Hank Williams’ love song to Jesus, “I Saw the Light,” as What Comes After the Blues’ guiding principle. Light in its various modes defines the album: Astrophysical on brokedown country shuffle “Northstar Blues”; neon on the similarly toned “Hammer Down,” as it dapples a deserted dance floor; entirely absent on “I Can Not Have Seen the Light,” a dim corridor where shapes won’t quite resolve. (“Don’t know what pain was yours and what pain was mine,” Molina sings.)
The only misstep on this concise record is Jennie Bedford’s bracing, overstated vocal solo on “The Night Shift Lullaby.” It isn’t even bad; it’s just misplaced against Molina’s dulcet tones—an overly bright light on an album of glimmers and soft coronas.