In the world of Touch & Go, Nina Nastasia's dark, gothic, vaudevillian songwriter's emotivism dwells somewhere between the lusty buskerish wails of Shannon Wright and the shrouded shadow-dwelling dread of the Black Heart Procession. Recorded, but of course, by the short, angry man Steve Albini, The Blackened Air wafts on the gentle zephyrs of a big band's strange and stirring accompanist's whims. A six-man backing band of players drawn from such disparate sources as David Bowie's band and Cirque du Soleil (eh!) colors the edges of Nastasia's grimly shaded charcoal sketches with dabs and daubs of cello, mandolin, accordion, percussion, viola, jew's harp, and musical saw. The compositions are often kept short, the album's 16 tracks clocking in at 43 minutes. Favoring a cultivated air of archaic parlance in her songs, the New York-based songsmith affects a country lilt as her songs slowly clop down moon-shone red-dirt roads with a doleful deliberation. That said, despite a deliberate disposition toward this old-timey folkie language, the tales Nastasia tells with her homey words are completely contemporary. She uses grand metaphor to pitch tales that pitch and toss on the stormy seas of social interaction and emotional isolationism, spinning yarns of awkwardness in social circumstance and harrowed hollowed-out sorrow whose carefully crooned syllables and flutters of mandolin ring with reverence and resonance.