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- The Chronicles Of Marnia by Marnie Stern
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Ahh! Marnie Stern’s new album is finally in our office! It’s one of those times when we got sent the promo CD so early that I already know the thing inside out, having played it on repeat through much of a couple of back-breaking weekends alone in the office painting our eye-catching mural. I have to say, while I’ve been a fan of Stern’s for some time now, this is my favourite of her releases to date, with more of a poppy, melodic approach (especially to the vocals) and the steady yet bombastic hands of Oneida’s Kid Millions replacing the tech-splatter style of her previous sticksman, Hella etc’s Zach Hill. Freed from some of her earlier chaos, I think this album has more elements of Deerhoof and Ponytail than her previous efforts.
It’s hard to pick out favourite tracks since they all whiz past in such a blur and stylistically they’re all pretty similar - hard, bright power-pop with plenty of Marnie’s trademark fingertapping and big, full-throated choruses. The lyrics are wonderful too, they seem deeply personal and introspective but also positive and uplifting, like a good chat with a friend, as she casually doles out her homespun wisdom, opining a “No-one ever really understands anybody else’s life” mantra in ‘Still Moving’, while in ‘Proof Of Life’ she insists “The work is never done. And that is all I have. And I can’t get it right.” She saves a real highlight for last, too, with ‘Hell Yes’ channelling the late great Party Of Helicopters with its spindly metallic guitar lines and falsetto vocals lamenting life on the road: “When the missing doesn’t stop/ Loneliness will cut you up...I’ve got time on my hands/ All I’ve got is time”, fading out to imply that this is only the end of what we can hear.
It gives the impression of a restless creative spirit, always trying to understand, always trying to express, always trying to connect. And that I think is the key to the magic, perfection even, which Marnie Stern has achieved here. Despite her flashy chops and illustrious collaborators, there’s an undercurrent of insecurity, a struggle with self-improvement and what self-improvement means, where she is so disarmingly open about her inner life that the listener feels like she’s already on their side. It’s a beautiful thing.
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