West Bay native Tony Molina has been following a fascinating trajectory on his recent string of releases. Early entries like the 6 Songs EP and Dissed And Dismissed LP combined the best bits of Weezer/Teenage Fanclub-style power-pop with Tony's smart, touching songs, shredding guitar pyrotechnics and ironclad DIY HC roots. 2016's Confront The Truth EP flipped the script in a big way, leaving the guitar crunch behind in favor of mostly acoustic arrangements that owe as much to Horizontal-era Bee Gees and the Fanclub's mellower moments as they do to Georges Harrison and Martin. It's a masterful record, packing more melodic flair and emotional truth into 11 minutes than most bands manage in an hour.
Now Tony is back with his brilliant, long-awaited album Kill The Lights. The 10-tracks continue in his evolution towards stripping the songs back to reveal each one's emotional and melodic core. But where Confront The Truth was mostly acoustic, Kill The Lights adds back some full band arrangements to brilliant effect. Album opener "Nothing I Can Say" is a lovely 12-string pop tune that would sit snugly in The Byrds' songbook - it's that good. "Wrong Town" is gentle and subtly wrenching, recalling prime Elliott Smith in its simple truth. "Afraid To Go Outside" expands on some of the pastoral early Bee Gees/Kaleidoscope/Tomorrow flavor revealed on Confront, aided by some great organ lines. "Now That She's Gone" features some gorgeous guitar finger-picking, while "Jasper's Theme" is a rootsy mid-tempo groover that leans towards Gram-era Byrds.
Everywhere on Kill The Lights we hear Tony synthesizing his influences with great skill and intention; these classic folk and pop styles are being employed in the service of stellar songs and universal lyrical truths rather than just as aesthetic filigree. This is why beautiful, elegant songs like "When She Leaves" and "Before You Go" aren't really so far from Molina's punk roots -- they reflect a dedication to craft combined with an intense commitment to self-expression that transcends simplistic genre boundaries. The sonic palette may be shifting, but the tunes are all Tony and we should all be grateful for that.