No one is saying that Marissa Nadler doesn’t just walk around like anybody else, but the Boston singer and songwriter gives the distinct impression in her music that she floats, ghostly and all-knowing, just above the ground. It’s a sensibility she’s honed over the half a dozen albums that have led to her latest LP.
Like its predecessors, Strangers comprises songs with thoughtful, sometimes lacerating lyrics. Also like its predecessors, they drift by at first, drawn along by lush musical arrangements and Nadler’s haunting, portentous voice. It’s easy to get lost in the gentle ebb and flow of chiming organ on “All the Colors of the Dark,” or the moody, minor-key piano and multi-tracked vocals of opener “Diver in the Dust,” and forget all about the lyrics until a compelling phrase or image emerges from the clouds of swirling instrumentation: “You’re a natural disaster and I am/ Watching you blow up everything you touch,” she intones on “Janie in Love,” her voice enveloped by swaths of reverberating guitars and a steady beat.
Strangers is in many ways more dynamic than some of Nadler’s previous efforts, balancing the ethereal atmospherics with musical movement that adds a sense of foreboding, as if Nadler were singing calmly in the face of an onrushing apocalypse. “Katie I Know” pushes forward on a subtly robust rhythm topped with shivers of strings, while overdriven electric guitar rings out on the melancholy title track, yielding to silvery wash of pedal steel on the bridge.
As on her 2014 album July, Nadler worked on Strangers with producer Randall Dunn, who has also produced heavy bands including Boris, Sun O))) and Lesbian. Together, they bring a brooding doom-metal aesthetic to songs that are less extreme, yes, but more tuneful and every bit as intense and ominous.
For more Marissa Nadler content, check out her 2013 Daytrotter session in the player below.