On first blush, the shorthand for most listeners will be to connect the sound of Mariee Sioux with that of fellow neo-folk songstress Joanna Newsom. They both come from the same part of the world -- Nevada City, California. Each writes songs that ties together the magickal and natural world with the trials of human experience. And both have singing voices that you either buy into immediately or will spend the rest of your life avoiding.
Mariee Sioux is an indie-folk singer/songwriter, which is always a blessing and a curse. Everything in that genre has been clearly defined and it can be difficult to stand out in an increasingly overcrowded field. The beauty of Gift for the End is that it doesn’t try to stand out—it’s focus is too sharp to be concerned with outside context. From the the stunning opener “Homeopathic” to the haunting closer “Tule”, there’s nothing but expertly crafted music.
In the promotional notes for Mariee Sioux's fourth album (apparently her fifth is also imminent) the usual suspects that any self-respecting young ethereal folk-singer should cite - the list that generally starts with Nick Drake and runs all the way up to Joanna Newsom - all make an appearance. And yet there is still one absence that seems fairly egregious: Marissa Nadler. Of course, with Nadler still being very much a cult concern it's not likely that she'd pop up on a list of influences, it just can't go unmentioned as on Gift for the End Sioux sounds so much like her (with the possible exception of White Fanged Foreverness, where she's arguably a bit more Tori Amos) that it's positively eerie.
California psych-folk artist Mariee Sioux has kept busy since her 2007 debut album, Faces in the Rocks, joining the list of artists who have put out collaborative EPs with Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and making appearances on tributes to Graham Nash and The Cure. In between those various one-off projects, Sioux’s found time to write and record a second full-length, titled Gift for the End. Sioux’s drawn quick comparisons to Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, but she’s a closer descendant of the more acid-washed pool of ’70s singer/songwriters inhabited by Linda Perhacs, Vashti Bunyan, and Tim Hardin.
Maybe it’s the changing of the seasons that’s making it unusually difficult for me to cozy up to the latest album by Northern California songwriter Mariee Sioux. Sioux’s music – a chimerical fusion of Native American mysticism and West Coast psychedelia – seems tailor-made for those times when people are at their most composed and the weather pushes back on spontaneous fits of energy: sunrise, sunset, and pretty much any time when the temperature falls below 50 degrees. The Boston area has been blessed as of late with a summer-like climate, and listening to Sioux’s disarmingly tender folk feels like a harsh regression into the doldrums of winter, circa early February.