Boston's Marissa Nadler delivered ancestral gothic folk music on
Ballads of the Dying (Eclipse, 2004) and
The Saga Of Mayflower May (Eclipse, 2005), accompanied with
acoustic guitar and little else.
Songs III - Bird On The Water (Peacefrog, 2007), backed by the Espers,
marked a departure from the stark style of her first two albums.
Little Hells (2009) abandoned the last vestiges of freak-folk and
unleashed the mad side of her personality, but
the songs were not very musical yet, the same problem that surfaces from
Marissa Nadler (2011): passion and sincerity, but, despite the
polished production, it sounds more like a diary than music.
Baby I Will Leave You In The Morning boasts the austere pathos of
prog-rock elegies from
Emerson Lake & Palmer and
Alabaster Queen is emblematic of the problem: couldn't she just write
down the lyrics and send them in an email instead of singing them lazily
and casually strumming her guitar?
The other solution, of course, is to leap for real and achieve the kind of
otherworldly ethereal atmosphere of hyper-psychedelic singer-songwriters,
which she almost does in The Sun Always Reminds Me of You.
Thanks to the hype that accompanied that album,
The Sister (2012) was even less musical, although
The Wrecking Ball Company boasted some of her best soprano howls
in the purest English folk tradition.
Thanks to immaculate and glacial production by Randall Dunn,
her dreamy falsetto fares a little better on the better arranged
July (Sacred Bones, 2014), but ultimately this is yet another
monotonous parade of identical songs, from the
road epic Drive to the delicate elegy Desire with orchestral
synth and echoed vocals, with Dead City Emily perhaps standing out.
By comparison, the slightly livelier Was It A Dream sounds like
an amazing achievement because it boasts a distorted guitar solo and chamber arrangements.
Lush orchestrations feature prominently also on
Strangers (Sacred Bones, 2016), again produced by Randall Dunn.
Katie I Know is the peak of melancholy,
Skyscraper the peak of pathos.
The brief album
For My Crimes (Sacred Bones, 2018), produced by Lawrence Rothman,
returned instead to a chamber folk setting, with the notable exception of
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