Release Date: Jul 27, 2018
Record label: Slumberland
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Tony Molina bids farewell to a loved one on Kill the Lights. The Bay Area singer-songwriter does like many of us do when we begin to accept a loveless shift - if you love something, set it free. It's the oldest of axioms, but also an applicable one that holds a universal meaning. Molina, ever the sensitive songwriter, has based most of his work on pithy, yet sufficiently detailed songs that dig into his self-belittling thoughts.
Tony Molina is a master at creating quick little snippets of sugar-sweet pop, and on 2018's Kill the Lights he expands on his last relatively bare-bones EP, Confront the Truth, by bringing in jangling 12-string guitars, Hammond organ, drums, and piano. He and a friend, Jasper Leach, worked in studios and bedrooms to get a sound that's both expansive and intimate, with baroque pop flourishes and late-night vibes. Anyone hoping for more of the loud-as-a-jet-engine guitars of Dissed and Dismissed will find that they are nowhere to be found, but those who love Molina's deadpan vocals, unerring way with a melody, and songs that hit you with a killer chorus and maybe a solo before exiting won't miss them too much.
After listening to a Tony Molina song, it might take you by surprise that Molina, a West Bay native, has honed his craft within a hardcore milieu, playing alongside local acts such as Dystrophy, Ovens, and Caged Animal, to name a few. Instead, it sounds as if Molina was raised on a rigorous diet of Big Star and George Harrison tapes, in a world where hardcore was only an urban legend. But perhaps Molina's hardcore tenure helped him mature into the power-pop troubadour he has become—both genres equally visceral and tempestuous as the other, primal in ways that complement one another, both thematically love sick or frustrated.
You could listen to Tony Molina's 2013 solo debut, Dissed and Dismissed, in less time than it takes to boil a pot of pasta. Follow it up with the same year's Six Tracks EP and 2016's Confront the Truth, and you'd still be hard-pressed to have your meal plated before all three records were done. To say Molina is a fan of brevity would be a gross understatement--this is a guy who covered a Guided by Voices song that was originally 59 seconds long and made it even shorter.
Kill The Lights by Tony Molina Tony Molina makes small pop gems, in the vein of Teenage Fanclub, though mostly without the fuzzed guitar dissonance that that band spliced into its tender songs. Kill the Lights, his second full-length, follows 2016's largely acoustic Confront the Truth and 2014's moderately more abrasive Dissed and Dismissed (reviewed here by me, if you're interested) and amps up the voltage somewhat, especially in the anthemic "Jasper's Theme," site of this disc's best electric guitar licks. Elsewhere, Molina raises other ghosts, the soft outlines of the Byrds materializing in his chiming, 12-stringed "Nothing I Can Say," the luxe acoustic tunefulness of Elliott Smith emerging from brief, tossed off "Wrong Town," the lovely TFC drift and swoon of "Afraid to Go Outside" (more like "Mellow Doubt" or "Did I Say" than guitar-battering "I Need Direction," but still).
Tony Molina is one for brevity. His debut solo album clocked twelve songs in at less than eleven minutes. And while his new album Kill the Lights runs slightly longer (ten songs in fifteen minutes), his concise execution remains his most notable quality. While short songs are not uncommon, Molina's Elliott Smith singer/songwriter style is not usually where you find them.