Marissa Nadler, "Diamond Heart" (YSI link)
Marissa Nadler, "Silvia" (YSI link)
In these Days of Awe and just generally f'd up times, it seems like there's no better time to take a look at Marissa Nadler's recent album, Songs III: Birds On A Water. Nadler has been a rising star in the freefolk movement for a few years, on the stength of some home recordings and well-received debut, The Saga Of Mayflower May. This is my first time with her music, but I can't imagine she's dealing with potential label nymore. This is an amazing album, a gorgeous record in spite of the bleak song topics like death and break-ups and all that good stuff. It's about all I want to hear right now, as the future keeps coming and my past just won't go away (hello to the boy that got away, RV) and the the world seems so horrible and I just want to sit in the park and listen to this album and have a good cry.
I guess the first thing you'll notice is Ms. Nadler's voice, as commanding as any I've heard. She seems to effortlessly hit any note, but yet it still retains a uniqueness that isn't always there with the most talented. It's almost girlish at times,without descending into the annoying like Joanna Newsome, whom she is often compared to. She is also an excellent finger-picking guitarist, a la John Fahey (I'm sure there's a ton of other good comparison, he's the only I know), providing a gentle, lulling backdrop to her heartbreaking lyrics. It's a traditional sound, I imagine it would appeal greatly to old-time folk music fans or even blues fans.
I'm neither of those, of course, which means that there has to be more. That more is the band she invited to join her to bring a fuller sound, Espers. One of the great bands today, it shouldn't be surprising that since they are awesome they are of course from Philadelphia. It must have been difficult to fit into such precise and quiet music, without sounding like the porverbial bull in the china shop. Greg Weeks and company are magnificent, never taking away from Nadler or the lyrics, yet still they were able to create a swirling, psychedelic sound that takes this music to the next level. Whether's it's bells, a mandolin or a cello, the band is able to make maximum impact with minimal intrusion. For some reason, I want to use the word 'exquisite' here, so I'm going to: exquisite.
Obviously, this one is highly recommended. Grab your copy here, put it on when you're feeling a little blue, We may come back to her earlier music if there's interest. P.S. If you can guess which lyric in "Diamond Heart" guaranteed its choice, I'll fill any song request (if I can).