Album Review – Marissa Nadler: Marissa Nadler

Marissa Nadler draws me in with her beautiful 5th self titled album, released this week on her own label: Box of Cedar Records via funds raised on Kickstarter. With lots and lots of illustrations.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Marissa Nadler by Avril Kelly
Marissa Nadler by Avril Kelly.

Marrisa Nadler’s 5th album came out this week. The Massachusetts born singer songwriter has been playing music since she was a teenager, teaching herself guitar, 12 string, piano and organ with a little help from her older brother. Swoonsome melodies always come first, followed by metaphor-laden lyrical tales. Marissa studied illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design alongside a Masters Degree in Art Education, but the self expressive potential of music proved too big a pull to resist. She still creates art and sells watercolours, prints and handsewn pillows on Etsy, using it as a homespun way to raise funds for her music projects.

Marissa Nadler by Fawn Carr
Marissa Nadler by Fawn Carr.

Using online fundraiser Kickstarter to raise cash to record her self titled album proved an unprecedented success, allowing Marissa to make a record that remains true to her creative vision. The album was recorded earlier this year at the Miner Street studios in Philadelphia with producer Brian McTear and self released on Box of Cedar Records, named after a song on her first record. Everyone who helped to fund it received a hand wrapped record parcel in the post as a thankyou.

Marissa Nadler Album Cover
Marissa Nadler Album Cover.

Life, love and heartbreak, loss and death – all fragile human is found in the new album. From the crystal opening lines of In Your Lair, Bear…. ‘Where did you go, when the snow fell about you?‘ it’s obvious that this is an intensely personal album. ‘Like blood through your souls.’ Bears of course, are just a metaphor for human experience. Alabaster Queen tells the tale of a life that’s nearly drowned. The slow mournful strum of a guitar is the only thing that keeps us afloat.

Marissa Nadler by Lea Rimoux
Marissa Nadler by Lea Rimoux.

The Sun Always Reminds Me Of You starts on a more positive note… the sun shining on a familiar walk… but that sunshine is not all good after all ‘there ain’t nothing but love songs on the radio.‘ There’s a cosmic countryish tinge to this, a squealing moog bouncing incongruously through the background.

Marissa Nadler by Sam Parr
Marissa Nadler by Sam Parr.

In Mr. John Lee Revisited cements Marissa Nadler’s reputation as a ‘mistress of the murder ballad’, singing of seductive red lips. But she’s running away again by Baby I will Leave in the Morning. ‘Baby you need to set me free‘ – key changes straining to get away from the melody. But she’s not leaving yet. ‘Come here… honey I don’t want to go away.’

Marissa Nadler photo by Courtney Brooke Hall
Marissa Nadler photo by Courtney Brooke Hall.

There’s a rollicking undertow to Puppet Master, which was co written with Carter Tanton. Once more the seasons pin the lyrics in time and place. ‘Winter would come and nothing would move. Summer’s undone with all did I choose.’ She won’t ever do him wrong… ‘I was your pearl and I knew that you lied.’

Marissa Nadler by Rukmunal Hakim
Marissa Nadler by Rukmunal Hakim.

Despite her angelic soprano Marissa Nadler will never succumb to what he wants her to be, never a Wind Up Doll. Light as a feather harmonies curl around a sparse wash of sound. ‘she will never be what you want her to be.’

Marissa Nadler by Jo Chambers.
Marissa Nadler by Jo Chambers.

A wobbling wall of synth opens Wedding. ‘I will wait for you to come around.’ Is she really still waiting? Somehow I don’t believe it, I think this album is the ultimate cathartic comeback. Doing things exactly as she would like, Marissa is fooling no one. This album is a masterpiece of that self expression she has spent so long searching for. Little King grew up not afar away. We’re in the autumn now but the suitcase is still being packed.

marissa_nadler_soni_speight
Marissa Nadler by Soni Speight.

Breaking down In a Magazine, in public, but she has moved on – ‘my hands are tied, the rain falls, you look like someone I used to know‘ – maybe, though the memories remain. The album ends on Daisy, Where Did You Go? – Marissa still apparently stuck with phantom limbs in ‘this light of woe‘ but nothing scares Daisy. And thus ends a beautifully elliptical album that I’ve had on repeat for weeks.

Marissa Nadler by Lea Rimoux
Marissa Nadler by Lea Rimoux.

Marissa Nadler plans to tour Europe in the autumn so keep an eye on this space. What a wonderful discovery. Now I just need to listen to the other albums.

Marissa Nadler by Rosie Moss
Marissa Nadler by Rosie Moss.

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