Marissa Nadler’s music tends to be smooth, dark and dramatic: like an image reflected in the shiny black surface of a grand piano. Strangers finds Nadler writing characters, characters who often find themselves in surreal scenarios evoked by rich instrumentation. Strangers is a joint release between Sacred Bones and Bella Union, available as CD or LP.
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I’m unfamiliar with Marissa Nadler, but in her world, it doesn’t seem to matter. ‘Strangers’ is the kind of record that immediately prepares a table for you at its world; it pulls up a chair and you fall through the void in the floor, falling out onto a world of quiet, abandoned and ever-so gothic architecture. Obviously an extremely good songwriter, Nadler’s new record shines because it’s committed to keeping its atmosphere consistent, establishing its own context.
Having previously hung with the creep kids at Sacred Bones, Nadler moves to Bella Union for ‘Strangers’, creating their best record in a very long time -- this record is full of straight-and-narrow acoustic trials, as well as full, cinematic pieces and plenty of electronic enhancement. “Katie I Know” centres Nadler’s voice around a juxtaposition of fraught, jaunty strings and gorgeously toned guitar, as if giving you the Silver Mt Zion string section and London Grammar at the same time. The melodies are perfect, as is their weighting -- you hear the song climax in the background, bringing in its catchiest moments under cover of darkness. Uh. I just wrote a paragraph about it? Song of the year, perhaps?
There are other songs too. I promise. “Skyscraper” is a gorgeous fret-slider that takes place under the humble guidance of synth chords, making themselves scarce. “Hungry Is The Ghost” is hopefully twanging in its rising melody and muted chord sequence -- it feels, like the best Beach House songs, carried, as if it’s merely observing its epic journey -- that shoegazing bridge sounds like waves cresting around the song, not from within it. Listening out in the open field that is our office, these things all seem so insignificant -- around the corner, headphoned and hidden from the snarky nerds I call my colleagues, it’s enough to make me feel over and over and over again. ‘Strangers’ is a triumph in what I have to assume is a string of many for Nadler.
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