Marissa Nadler

For My Crimes

Sacred Bones

Sep 26, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Marissa Nadler's songs aren't necessarily the kind that get stuck in one's head, but on her new album, For My Crimes, there's one track, "Blue Vapor," that's just impossible to forget. Across its three-and-a-half minutes, a guitar boasting scarcely any effects besides reverb (of which there's plenty) repeats a two-chord, eight-bar riff that summarizes Nadler's decades-long appeal succinctly and strikingly: No matter how many layers of vocal harmonies and, eventually, drum and string parts join the foray, Nadler's predilection for simple yet deeply haunting, Gothic, vast guitar riffs proves her calling card.

Across For My Crimes, which is Nadler's starkest and most barren album in quite some time, the Boston-based artist relies on little more than her forlorn, echoing mezzo-soprano and dusky, dusty guitar patterns to convey her desolation. "I Can't Listen to Gene Clark Anymore" is built entirely from these elements as well as a sprinkling of vocal harmonies, a second guitar part so featherlight it's quite possible many won't notice it, and thin, slowly groaning strings that outline the song's bridge. "Are You Really Gonna Move to the South?" is a vast, acoustic finger-plucker, a step into the country pool that's often informed Nadler's songwriting. "You're Only Harmless When You Sleep" is just as delicate and lethargic, its slothiness ensuring that listeners won't miss Nadler's words.

And her words might be more important on For My Crimes than on any previous album. Take a look at those song titles again: although Nadler's past tracks have occasionally had titles this lengthy and detailed, "I Can't Listen to Gene Clark Anymore," "Are You Really Gonna Move to the South?," and "You're Only Harmless When You Sleep" all express deeply specific sentiments and are perhaps the most upfront Nadler's been about the situations informing her tragic sounds. This update to her lyrical style is an exciting expansion of the vulnerability that's proven the cornerstone of her career. On For My Crimes, Nadler reminds listeners that she's always capable of finding new ways to open up. (www.marissanadler.com)

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