Marissa Nadler

The Sister

Box of Cedar

May 30, 2012 Issue #41 - Yeasayer Bookmark and Share

There's an old joke about the difference between American and European films. European films-so it goes-can open with an endless montage of clouds. American films? If you don't immediately cut to an exploding airliner, you've lost your audience.

Therein lies the dividing line for those who will love or hate dream folk singer/songwriter Marissa Nadler's sixth album. Listeners who cling to atmosphere will inevitably cite her stunning, crystalline voice and simple guitar patterns as a triumph-a master class in mood. This much is true-it is a truly beautiful album. However, the rest of us will ultimately find repeat listens to The Sister as unsatisfying as a Truffaut film without subtitles, its eight bucolic tunes never amounting to anything greater than the sum of their parts.

A companion piece to her self-titled 2011 album, The Sister is a hushed, stripped-down accompaniment to its older sibling. But what is meant to sound intimate and sparse only sounds unfinished, and-dare I say it-downright boring. Gone are the fuller band arrangements, the absence of which too often drains the remaining life out of Nadler's melancholy refrains. Deliberately stripped-down instrumentation wouldn't be an issue if it weren't accompanied by a bevy of tropes better left in Creative Writing 101. Even the haunting, wordless chorus of "The Wrecking Ball Company" can't make up for the fact that Nadler refers to a cold lover as having "cement around the heart." She writes from the view of a small town girl in "In a Little Town," but has little to say about the experience other than, "At the school they bring you down." "Many a life I've tried/Many a tear I've cried," she sings. Haven't we all? So eager to explore the universal topics of life and love, Nadler has contentedly fixed her gaze on the clouds as a more interesting narrative passes her by. (

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