Release Date: Mar 19, 2013
Record label: Kill Rock Stars
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
What's not to love about a blazing indie-guitar heroine who titles her album The Chronicles of Marnia? This New York singer-guitarist's records keep getting more nuanced and revealing, without losing a hint of the radiantly hyper finger-picking energy that sometimes makes her sound like Robert Fripp sitting in with Sleater-Kinney. Here, she locks into an artfully flailing two-piece with drummer Kid Millions of Brooklyn noise captains Oneida. At times, her singing is a fire-tongued vocalese; elsewhere, she drops admissions like "I am losing my hope in my body," evincing bold honesty that only deepens the all-too-human achievement of her empowered shredding.
Having established herself as one of indie rock's premier shredders, Marnie Stern returns with an emphasis on songcraft on her rhapsodic fourth album, The Chronicles of Marnia. While Stern still delights in plenty of the lightning-fast guitar heroics with which she's made a name for herself, the album feels like a more open and exploratory affair. Part of this can be attributed to a change in personnel, with Hella and Death Grips drummer Zach Hill being replaced by Oneida's Kid Millions, providing a looser, more fluid contrast to Hill's technical wizardry.
MARNIE STERN plays Parts & Labour on Tuesday (April 16). See listings. Rating: NNNN Marnie Stern's much-vaunted fret-tapping skills have earned her the title "the lady who shreds," but the New York City experimental rock musician's six-string acrobatics don't take centre stage on her fourth album. They're more like dazzling background noises, adding massive doses of interest to each song and upping the emotional stakes.
Every time I see a guitarist fingertapping I think of Marnie Stern. She has, over the last five years or so, proven herself one of few virtuoso guitarists to infiltrate indie-rock. She could perhaps be compared to math-rock bands like Maps & Atlases, Tera Melos, and Don Caballero – but while that type of music can feel a bit empty underneath the excessive intricacies of song structure, Stern is in a league of her own because her music is always red-bloodedly affective – and even more so on The Chronicles of Marnia, her fourth album.
Marnie SternThe Chronicles of Marnia[Kill Rock Stars; 2013]By Brian Hodge; March 28, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetMarnie Stern makes music that sounds difficult. Packed with stacks of finger-tapped notes, filled with rifle-fire percussion, and scores of shrill vocals, Stern tends to let you know how hard she is working for everything. And with her fourth album, The Chronicles of Marnia, assures you that great things can come to those who aren’t afraid to work for it, including the listener.
NYC's Marnie Stern has made her name with virtuoso, finger-tapping guitar skills. Her first three albums came thick with dense, schizoid rock, but this fourth scales her usual crosscurrents back, revealing radiant, melody-driven fare. Kid Millions does a nimble job of replacing Stern's longtime sticksman Zach Hill, while producer Nicolas Vernhes deserves props for bringing Stern's sweetly shrill, childlike vocals to the fore.
Halfway through "Proof of Life", from Marnie Stern's fourth album, The Chronicles of Marnia, she makes an admission she's never made on record before: "I am running out of energy." Her voice is uncharacteristically low, her explosive finger-tapping guitar conspicuously absent. Instead, a piano blocks out melancholy chords over a drum fill that sounds like boulders cascading down a hillside. "Give me a sign," she pleads, exhausted.
This album deserves eight out of 10 for the title alone. Luckily, the music on this American singer-songwriter and guitarist extraordinaire’s fourth album is also excellent, and finds the nimble-fingered New Yorker flitting between manic, cheerleaderish pep and losing-team-crying-in-the-locker-room pessimism. ‘Noonan’ crests in on the fury of Stern’s trademark guitar shrapnel and an impassioned chant of “Don’t you wanna be somebody?!”, to create an anthem that wouldn’t sound out of place on a high-budget Hollywood film’s cheesy exercise montage.
It’s a new, lighter, start for Marnie Stern, as evidenced by that pun-tastic album title. When we last heard from the New Yorker with her third self-titled album, she was mourning the death of an ex-boyfriend, a ghost which hang heavy over the whole record. That album turned out to be one of the best records of the year, but a more carefree Marnie is no less compelling.
Where Marnie Stern’s deeply wistful self-titled 2010 album was inspired by the death of a beloved ex-boyfriend, whose ghost hung over even the songs that weren’t explicitly about him, Stern’s follow-up is marked by a different kind of absence. The Chronicles of Marnia is the rapid-shred guitarist’s first album without longtime drummer Zach Hill, now committed full-time to spaz-rap subverts Death Grips, and his departure strikes at the very foundation of her sound. Stern’s previous albums were a dialogue between two esoteric savants, each trying to one-up the other with their technical wizardry, if not sheer volume.
From her distinctively yappy vocal style to her signature, tapping-heavy way around a fret board right down to her very album titles, there are many things about Marnie Stern’s music that could potentially grate. As if aware of this, on her third record Stern deliberately shies away from much that could be labelled quirky, presenting an album that’s far lighter on eccentricities but all the more tuneful and enjoyable for their absence. Yet shedding many of your idiosyncrasies, when you’re a woman blessed with as many of them as Stern, still leaves us with a far from dull record.
On Marnie Stern’s fourth album, her guitar playing is as grand as her self-doubt. Yet The Chronicles of Marnia is Stern’s most buoyant work, complete with a mission statement that bucks her precious trend: “Immortals don’t die.” At 37, the Upper East Side guitar virtuoso is in her ‘not a girl, not yet a veteran of the alt-rock sphere’ stage. Flanked by a new producer with a flair for minimalism, Nicolas Vernhes (Wild Nothing, LIGHTS) and drummer Kid Millions of Oneida, Stern peeled off the layers that cushioned her previous works, like 2010’s Marnie Stern.
Marnie Stern made a quick impression as one of the few artists to get a deal based on an unsolicited demo. Since then, though, it turns out it’s taken a while to get to know who Marnie Stern is. Or, rather, it’s taken her a while to tell us. Her music seems, at first, universal in its shredding, chaotic appeal.
Denizens of the Internet launched the word "epic" squarely into overuse territory, but with your permission, reader, I'd like to reclaim it to discuss The Chronicles of Marnia. No one embodies—or aspires to—"epic" quite like Marnie Stern. In interviews, she's claimed sweat-soaked Rocky Balboa as a hero, and her albums and song titles are rife with references to epic works (The Chronicles of Narnia, obviously, and Infinite Jest) and individuals who share her appreciation for the genre (Plato, Rimbaud).
While much of the press surrounding Marnie Stern’s The Chronicles of Marnia has concentrated on virtuoso drummer Zach Hill’s replacement by Oneida’s Kid Millions, the main difference between this album and other Stern releases is not who’s backing her up, but the fact that the drums and her signature finger-tapping guitar style have been pushed back in the mix while her vocals have been brought forward, a choice that emphasizes Stern’s lyrical storytelling rather than her impressive guitar playing. The album’s title isn’t just a silly pun. While the songs on The Chronicles of Marnia aren’t explicitly autobiographical, Stern expresses her anxieties through her characters.
I’d like to be able to separate this record from its context and any other associations. To say something like '...Marnie Stern delivers another set of ferocious guitar-shredding topped with plaintive lyrics in her idiosyncratic vocal style, unhindered by the departure of drummer Zach Hill for controversial rap-trio, Death Grips. Rumours of a shift towards pop should alarm no-one expecting a sell-out, and be greeted with the same enthusiasm as Jandek playing live.
On her fourth album, inventive and demented singer/songwriter/guitar hero Marnie Stern whips up a potent batch of quirky, invigorating and, at times, beautiful new material that demonstrates the evolution she's undergone during her bold musical journey. There's an air of hopefulness and renewal permeating the lyrics of the hilariously titled The Chronicles of Marnia, matched by a magical, tingling warmth in the sturdy chord structures supporting the frantically snapping sails of her guitar histrionics like the ballast of her very own Dawn Treader. This newfound smoothness is aided by the gracefully pummelling chops of new skin thwacker Kid Millions (Oneida); his groove-heavy playing tempers Stern's jagged edges, where Zack Hill's angular aggression amplified it.
Playful, dizzying, cloud-busting and, perhaps more so than ever before, serious. Chris Parkin 2013 Strapping on a guitar is still considered the de facto symbol of rebellion by many. The guitar keeps on killing fascists, apparently. This is cobblers when so much modern guitar music is more likely to inspire gentle, bucolic swaying in a field than any sort of kerfuffle.
Marnie Stern can shred. Which is important. If you’re someone who spends their evenings walking out to tables alongside a plate of Peking duck. Or if you can say things like ‘Wow. A fretless guitar. How cool is that’ without a trace of irony in your voice.For everyone else, it’s a point of ….
All right, lets get it out of the way: Marnie Stern can shred. In fact, she fingerpicks at face-melting speeds throughout the entirety of her new full-length, The Chronicles of Marnia. While the album clocks in at a mere 33 minutes, the backbreaking guitar work can still feel grueling for both the listener and (I imagine) Marnie alike. However, fans of Marnie’s music are fully aware of what an album of hers going to bring, and on The Chronicles of Marnia, she brings it.
History tells us that artists with an experimental lean tend to topple toward the middle over time, losing a once-unique edge in an effort to curb artistic stagnation or simply as a means of courting a wider listenership. At first blush, the career of Marnie Stern would seem to bear out this trajectory. The treble-voiced, finger-tapping, endearingly self-deprecating New York-based guitar hero has moved breathlessly across a trio of albums with nary a pause for traditional considerations such as melody or structure.
Marnie Stern's not a force to be reckoned with; she's the one who does the reckoning. She's a riot grrrl raised on heavy art punk, St. Vincent shredding guitar on acid. The New Yorker's fourth LP contorts accordingly, "Year of the Glad" opening with the same maddening wails as "For Ash" from her eponymous 2010 offering, before diving into heavy riffs amid the seeming chaos.
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