She's like a young Stevie Nicks, all doped up and duped to serve as Devendra Banhart's geisha. Nah, too strong for that. How 'bout Donovan reincarnated as Linda Ronstadt? Except instead of a '70s pop star, in this life she's Fairy Queen of the Muir Woods, a mythical creature spotted only by hippie chicks who dare to eat strange mushrooms and venture into the redwoods past nightfall. Or maybe she just sounds like a burnt-out Neko Case on a sad bender.
You'll have to forgive me I woke up this morning feeling a wee bit simile.
It's listening to this rare, ravishing recording, I think, that's done it. Marissa
Nadler's music doesn't so much play from your speakers as it emanates.
It's more subtle a sense than sound; her long, breathy tones hit like a
smell, some nostalgic wisp that tickles the ol' factories, reminding you of past
happenings you can't quite seem to remember. Or maybe ones you don't quite want
Her debut's entitled Ballads of Living and Dying, but it's more of that last part that awakened Marissa's muse. Seems lots of records are springing up from the graves right about now; Panda Bear's got one hell, the Arcade Fire even named theirs Funeral. Nadler's debut slides nicely in that sarcophagus comp, bridging the gap between Reginé Chassagne's shrill soprano and Panda's minimal folk musings. These sepulchral ballads are built mostly upon a shaky guitar strum, a laboring four-part pick, a voice that drifts like chimney smoke.
Yes, that's the smell you were trying to remember! That of fresh-burning firewood, of the first drop in the mercury that scares up kindling, of graying skies and grayer eyes. It's the all-encompassing sense of winter, the sights and sounds and smells as October passes to November and then December, and Marissa Nadler captures it perfectly here: a shivering slide-guitar that sings its own song on "Fifty Five Falls," or the metallic ring of a banjo, its notes falling like snowflakes, ushering in the decidedly Case-esque "Days of Rum."
Every time her chilly instrumentation begins to bite, though, Nadler's voice wraps it up in a soft, safe blanket. It's the thing that'll keep you coming back to this, in the end; when you're longing for long days peering through glass panes, wrapping your hands around warm cocoa cups, smelling split cedar and smoldering oak, give the Fairy Queen a call. Devendra won't mind if you borrow her for a while.