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"Marissa Nadler"

Marissa Nadler – Marissa Nadler
21 June 2011, 17:40 Written by Erik Thompson

Perhaps now that Marissa Nadler has formed her own record label, and fittingly decided to self-title her just-released fifth album (and first on Box Of Cedar records), she has sufficiently stripped away any and all barriers or reservations that kept her from revealing her true creative heart directly to her listeners.

Not that Nadler ever really shied away from intensely personal and intimate songwriting on her previous four albums – but this new batch of tunes seems to be the clearest, most sincere musical statement yet from an artist that continually delves deeply into the struggles of love, life, and loss in an original and arresting way.

The album opens with the plaintive longing of ‘In Your Lair, Bear,” which, like most of the record, features Nadler’s dulcet vocals over a minimal, muted arrangement that adds lovely flourishes to the songs but never grows to overwhelm Marissa’s voice. And Nadler is a sufficiently clever, insightful lyricist who can pull off carrying a record that is soley driven by her voice and somber storytelling. Such is the case on ‘Alabaster Queen,’ a song that would be listless under less talented care, but Nadler turns the simple number into a soaring promise that rings with resonance.

The countrified ‘The Sun Always Reminds Me Of You’ is a gorgeous ode to a lost love, while ‘Mr. John Lee Revisited’ tells of the mistakes that happen when you fall for the same type of guy you’ve just let walk away. The characters in Nadler’s songs often are led by the heart, despite knowing how foolish that might be or how broken they might end up. No matter how much anguish they end up suffering, they are always given a new, interesting story to tell.

Nadler financed much of the recording of this album through a successful Kickstarter campaign, working with longtime producer Brian McTeer, whose steady but understated hand colors these songs in subtle but surprising ways. ‘Baby, I Will Leave You In The Morning’ has a faint electronic twist that gives a modern touch to a song as old as time. While on ‘Puppet Master,’ Nadler and McTeer are both smart enough to realize the story is the song, leaving Marissa’s gorgeous vocals untouched over a delicate guitar riff at the start, until the unexpected chorus unleashes a calypso rhythm (complete with a muffled xylophone) that adds a startling twist to a song that is ultimately memorable and quite moving.

The record draws to a close with a strong triumvirate of songs, the wistful, bluesy ‘Wedding,’ the searching, sorrowful ‘Little King,’ and the nostalgic, late-night honky-tonk of ‘In A Magazine.’ All of which tell their tales with no sense of regret, just earned wisdom. The album closes with the sprawling majesty of ‘Daisy, Where Did You Go?’ which has echoes of Dylan’s proficient lyricism threaded throughout the somber number, and really finds Nadler at the top of her game. There aren’t many records where you genuinely feel like you know the artist a bit better after listening to their work, for typically there is an act or a persona that gets put on by the musician and the songs aren’t as revealing or authentic as they could be otherwise. But with Marissa Nadler’s self-titled record, you get the sense that she has laid her feelings bare before her, with no reason to hide anything from herself or her audience, and her songs end up soaring because of that deep sense of risk and her profound integrity which colors every moment of this deeply affecting work.


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