Release Date: Sep 28, 2018
Record label: Sacred Bones
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
When Marissa Nadler delivered Strangers in 2016, she offered an evolution of the aesthetic that held sway on her previous six full-lengths. Produced by Randall Dunn, the album's sound was much fuller and atmospheric. The speaking voice in her songwriting also began to shift from first-person to a kind of storytelling that observed the inner lives of external characters.
For My Crimes, Marissa Nadler 's eighth album, is not some radical revolution of persona and sound; it is in fact a studiously quiet evolution, whereby Nadler continues to cement herself as a uniquely powerful voice, a crashing wave amongst a sea of gentle swells and breaks. Nadler reportedly wrote a number of songs for this album during a short but intense period before going into the studio, replacing numerous demos she had made on the road while touring. This is reflected in the urgency of For My Crimes, a set of songs that Nadler could seemingly no longer contain.
Maybe this is a wild misreading, but Marissa Nadler doesn't get nearly enough credit--or any at all, really--for having a sense of humor. Her wit is as dry as it as subtle on her eighth album, a collection of songs that are also disconsolate and foreboding. Those traits are how the Boston singer is more generally known, and for good enough reason: Nadler favors a harrowing folk sound that she calls "slow music," full of spectral, minor-key musical arrangements that emphasize guitars, piano and strings.
The Lowdown: On her eighth album in 14 years, Marissa Nadler stuns with a brief collection of bold folk songs that exudes the best writing of her career. Working with producer Lawrence Rothman, Nadler eschews the sprawling arrangements of her last couple albums in favor of a more direct approach to her storytelling, full of intimate details that linger long after the music stops. Contributions from Angel Olsen, Sharon Van Etten, Kristin Kontrol, and Mary Lattimore help flesh out the immersive tales Nadler portrays.
For many years, Marissa Nadler wrote songs in the manner of someone rummaging through a box of antique photos. From the dusty depths of memory, she plucked characters at random--some real, some fictional--and spun them into cobwebbed stories of love, longing, and loss. Over the course of her career, the dramatis personae of Nadler's songs shifted to the periphery; she actively pursued more approachable subjects, and her own voice grew stronger and more centered in her writing.
Marissa Nadler has been releasing records since 2004, and her sound has been so perfected over the years that For My Crimes sounds like the quintessential album from the Boston native. While Nadler’s style is sparse, ghostly and fragile, it’s her songwriting that really stands out – these are arguably as much stories as they are songs. Like the rest of her albums, For My Crimes is a downbeat affair, and the subjects of her songs are suitably morose.
In the past it's seemed to me that there are two, superficially similar but actually quite discreet modes to Marissa Nadler's songwriting. Sometimes she's taken the form of a gloomy balladeer with a darkly wailing voice but essentially pretty straight, musically, a clear part of folk music's richly tragic tradition - see her self-titled album, or her last set 2016's Strangers. For My Crimes by Marissa Nadler And sometimes she tinkers with more exotic musical textures - drum machines, feedback, distortion - on what I'd call her great records: Little Hells, July, and 'Hungry Lies the Ghost', the standout track on Strangers. What's interesting about For My Crimes is that the lines between the two modes finally begin to blur.
You can't knock the Massachusetts soloist for hard work, but it's perhaps time she headed in a bolder direction Marissa Nadler deserves an award for her prolificacy. The American singer-songwriter has released eight records since her 2004 debut - and that's not counting a string of EPs. But her latest effort, ‘For My Crimes’, is frustratingly subtle growth from the 'freak folk' storyteller who's surely ready to head in a bolder direction.
For 14 years Marissa Nadler has been reinterpreting classic country, but adding an eerie gothic twist - on her new album 'For My Crimes' this reaches new levels of elegance. The album opens with a self-titled murder ballad. As the song builds Nadler's story of an execution is backed with delicate guitars, ethereal strings, siren vocal wails and eerie atmospherics.