Haunting and Delicate Storytelling with Caustic Confidence
Is the fireplace roaring in your musty manor? Are you wearing your old wedding dress and looking out rain spattered windows longingly, perhaps with some Sylvia Plath or Kate Chopin on the mantle? Then Marissa Nadler’s Strangers just might be for you!
A prolific singer-songwriter, guitarist and artist often compared to the likes of Mazzy Star or Lana Del Ray, Marissa Nadler’s seventh album Strangers (Bella Union/Sacred Bones) produced by Randall Dunn is a mosaic of 11 vignettes tinged with trippy gloom, minimalist instrumentals and her soaring, ghostly delivery. Though Nadler never feels like a victim, the tone of Strangers is that of tear strewn diary that doesn’t seem to engage in needless frills or sentiment, a great feat considering the subject matter and style that Nadler works in.
Endlessly driven to tell a story against the building of a morose and contemplative ambiance set around her breathy warble, Strangers begins with “Divers of the Dust” a track with slow and deliberate percussion and ringing keys that sets a clean and dialed back stage for Nadler’s meticulous mezzo-soprano. “How did we end up here and how did we meet?” she queries breathlessly.
“Katie I Know” is a fully realized track, still stripped in Nadler’s signature style but with a solid creep, ethereal effects and a sinister tinge. Light guitar and consistent, sparse drumming pair with warped keys to bring things around to a full haunting stop, solidifying Nadler as a master of emotion. “Skyscraper” comes in next, a folky tune with cinematic swells that hits like a headphone song demanding an immediate emotional response. Nadler’s stories skew anywhere from soaring surrealism to relatable melancholy and though there is an immediacy and an endless well of feeling, at times it feels as though the stakes are not high enough.
“All the Colors of the Dark” is haunting yet infused with a jauntier beat than usually employed, with the pairing creating something even more somber and equally as reflective, delicate and minimal. “Strangers” is eerie and chilling, with Nadler’s misty vocals twisting above a rambling, reverbed twang that seems to span space and time. Truly a beautiful and lonesome song; hopefully Nadler explores electric guitar further moving forward, because the pairing of her bell clear croon and tortured, drawn out minimal riffs creates a staggering and devastating juxtaposition. “Janie In Love” continues in the vein of “Strangers” but quicker and more full bodied with a crashing atmosphere, easily a track that could sweep away any listener who wasn’t expecting Nadler’s heart wrenching manner.
Strangers is an arrangement of engaging Gothic stained monologues canvassing the ideas of lone reflection and unwelcome interference that will truly grip and provide an ideal soundtrack for those moodier moments.