In the Fade

Tony Molina

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In the Fade Review

by Tim Sendra

Anyone following the career of Tony Molina since he began recording under his own name has no doubt been struck at some point by the duality of his approach to music. On the one hand, there are the blown-out, overdriven power pop nuggets that made Dissed and Dismissed an instant genre classic, on the other are the gentle acoustic fingerpicked guitar and Beatlesque Baroque pop found on the equally impressive Kill the Lights. 2022's In the Fade is the first record made under his own name to house both fuzzy rockers and gentle ballads, screaming guitar solos and classically plucked acoustics, crunchy power chords and tinkling pianos. The "under his own name" distinction is important because when Molina was recording as Ovens, he did tend to blend the two styles together more; fittingly here, he went back into his archive of unused songs from that era and chose a few to finally finish up. He also wrote some new tunes, and with collaborator Jasper Leach in tow, headed to the studio during the uncertain times of the pandemic lockdowns to craft what might be his most fully realized album yet. It may lack the breathless rush of Dismissed or the pristine beauty of Kill, but the combination of the different styles gives the record a welcome diverse feel even as the songs fit together like puzzle pieces. His main goal in creating the record was to make sure that melodies ruled the day, and they certainly do -- whether they are loud and ripping (as on the grungy delight "The Last Time"), gentle and swaying (like "I Don't Like That He"), or impossibly fragile (on a song that should give Elliott Smith fans something to cheer, "Four Sided Cell"). No matter the volume level or instruments used, the driving force that ties the record together is Molina's clear-eyed, sad-hearted vocals. He can deliver a melancholy lyric (and they pretty much all are) with a graceful, non-pitiful style that's welcoming instead of cringy. Even when he gets a bit bitter as on "Fuck Off Now," there's still enough sugar in the hooks, both vocal and musical, to make the pain go down easy. It's been clear for a long time that Tony Molina is a power pop whiz, a dab hand at Baroque pop, and a skilled classical guitarist; it's nice to have him wearing all those hats more or less at once here.

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