Often the back-story to records can provide them with a whole other context aside from that of the music itself, and the tribute EP It Was Triumph We Once Proposed is one such record. Released in mid-March of this year, it sees a warm and lovingly crafted tribute to the music of the late Jason Molina orchestrated by one of his fans, Glen Hansard, and features five songs taken from the various albums of Songs: Ohia, the moniker adopted by Jason Molina at the beginning of his musical career.
The story of Hansard’s infatuation with Molina’s music is the stuff of dreams for most aspiring musicians and, indeed, music fans alike – to be one of a select few to have discovered music unlike anything you’ve known before, and to express your admiration (in this case, it was in the form of a letter to Jason Molina) and have that acknowledged by the artist themselves is something I think most of us would love to say we have experienced ourselves.
As I mentioned, the EP only has five songs whereas the stereotypical tribute album might have dozens of songs from a plethora of artists, each wanting to contribute their spin of the artist’s music, so you might think that the record falls a bit short in that regard; I assure you that’s not the case. Each song is weighted with the craftsmanship that is so evident in Glen Hansard’s own music, but it also carries a level of care and, I suppose you could say, diligence; it’s evident in listening to these songs that Hansard wanted to pay his respects to one of his influences.
Opening the record is Being In Love, a sombre ode to the dangers and delights of, as the title says, being in love with another. Not being overly familiar with Molina’s music myself, this has proven to be an interesting experience as a neutral listener – after having heard the chorus, I could sense the draw in the music of Jason Molina, “And I am proof that the heart is a risky fuel to burn”. There’s a kind of morbid beauty in that lyric, a cynicism that I think for a lot of people is very relatable to in the context of love.
Another track I particularly liked was Vanquisher, the opening track of Songs: Ohia’s debut release, with a bassy and angrier feeling than the other songs on the EP – we even get a glimpse of Glen Hansard’s explosive vocals before we are taken to the closing track, White Sulfur.
White Sulfur is noticeably quieter in its ways than the others, but this only serves to provide Hansard’s vocals with the spotlight they deserve – the only accompaniment being a timid bass in the background. Again, there is a sombre and sad quality to the song, something one might expect to see in a tribute EP to someone who arguably went too soon at the age of 39, but that’s not to say the record has a depressive feeling.
In spite of the fact that this isn’t an original release by Glen Hansard, it should still be considered as a great piece of work on his part and, to my mind, an apt tribute to someone who clearly meant a lot to the development of this musician.