Box of Cedar Records, 2012
REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/30/2012
In the world of female songwriters, few voices are as memorable and sadly unappreciated as Marissa Nadler’s. Since 2004 the Boston folk-pop songstress has produced a large batch of well-received material in a relatively short amount of time, her Joni Mitchell meets Elliott Smith style of songwriting emanating a timeless beauty. Prolific as always, Nadler returns in summer 2012 with yet another album, the luminary having just delivered another collection of her hushed, dark and intimate balladry not even a year ago on her self-titled masterpiece.
As usual, these are very personal tales, Nadler often revealing her soul in her work. Relationship issues and betrayal may have comprised the bulk of her previous offerings, but her she extends further with her themes, yet still retains her aching beauty. Though she employs quaint piano, gentle background voices and other calm instruments (mandolin, brushed drums, etc), the true strength of Nadler’s art is rooted in her haunting yet angelic voice. It’s soulful and chilling and her delivery is always flawless.
Forever vivid with her imagery, Nadler on tracks like “Constantine” and “Christine” tells sad stories of a rock singer who drowned her life in drugs and spiraled into to a dark place, her wordplay always eloquent. “To A Road, Love” is undoubtedly the brightest moment here, a song full of hopefulness, something Nadler is especially talented at, despite her often somber instrumentation. The disc closes on “Your Heart Is A Twisted Vine,” a fragile song in which the narrator revisits an old love who is entirely too absent. It’s a maudlin moment, powerful in its sparseness.
Penned as an extension to last year’s self-titled disc, The Sister employs less full instrumentation, but the songwriting remains as sharp as ever, the stories as compelling and often more upbeat. While some songs rely heavily on piano chords (“Love Again There Is A Fire”), most of this is Nadler with her guitar, the track “Apostle” probably best exemplifying her back-to-basics approach. Graceful, honest and always so forthright, this is a woman whose talent seemingly knows no bounds.