Tony Molina – “Kill the Lights”

Tony Molina has been putting out solid music for quite some time, but unless you frequent Bay Area house shows you can be forgiven for an inability to recite his catalog. Most of Molina’s output has come via a parade of bands (of which the pleasingly lo-fi Ovens were the most prolific) but once he started working under his own name things got really interesting.

Molina’s initial solo foray “Dissed and Dismissed” was a nifty slice of crash pop that fits snugly within the Slumberland Records ethos. He quickly followed it up with a hairpin turn on “Confront the Truth,” a stripped-bare set of somber acoustic ballads. On “Kill the Lights” Molina lands on a sweet spot between the two, reintroducing some gentle full band arrangements while retaining the aching, cut-to-the-core minor key melodies.

Molina strenuously denies any autobiographical basis to his lyrics; regardless of inspiration, however, after three “albums” it’s hard to categorize his tunes as anything other than bittersweet breakup songs. “Album” belongs in quotes because “Kill the Lights”’ ten tracks breeze by in only 15 minutes – and it’s the longest of his three solo titles. In a nod to classic-era Guided By Voices, after crafting the perfect hook Molina’s the sort to fade out rather than repeat it. The effect can be either sublime or frustrating, depending on your mood.

The surface-level influences are obvious enough – Badfinger, Lennon-penned Beatles when piano enters the mix – but I’m most often left thinking of the Chris Bell side of Big Star. And I defy anyone to listen to the sustained organ notes and beautiful harmonies on the superb “Jasper’s Theme” and not imagine it slotting onto Bandwagonesque.

With an ideal balance of full-band songs, acoustic guitar reveries and piano ditties, “Kill the Lights” repeatedly hits the mark throughout its brief running time. For fans of the bands noted above, it might even become your #1 Record.

Tony Molina
“Kill the Lights”