Marissa Nadler’s new album, For My Crimes.

Marissa Nadler’s For My Crimes.

For My Crimes is Marissa Nadler’s eighth album, and it has the distinct air of being the culmination of everything she’s being circling around for the last decade or so. As such, it feels as much like a greatest hits album as it does a new record. Which makes it the perfect entry point for anyone yet to sample her very distinctive and ample charms.

Marissa Nadler.

Dream folk is the somewhat reductive label sometimes applied to her sound. What you get here on this album is that combination of lush, Gothic-pop, anchored by plaintive, indie country, buoyed by the sound of melodic metal, each of which she’d previously toyed with, individually, on previous albums. But all of which she melds so that they cohere here, on one rounded album.

Or, to put it another way, it’s Sharon Van Etten meets Lana Del Rey via Roy Orbison. Van Etten actually provides guest backing vocals on one of the tracks here, as does Angel Olsen. The title track, which very much sets the tone for the rest of the album, began as a test that her husband set her, to write a lyric in the voice of someone on death row, as Olivia Horn writes in her review on Pitchfork here, where she gives it a respectful 7.2.

Sharon Van Etten in Twin Peaks season 3.

Though clearly autobiographic in the feelings they describe, Nadler’s are songs filtered through the prism of the craft of story telling, in much the same way that those of Nick Cave and Bob Dylan are. As such, they are expressionistic rather than confessional. The result is duskily atmospheric and gloriously cinematic.

You can see the video for Blue Vapor here.

 

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The Antlers new album “Familiars” Simmers.

The Antler's "Familiars".

The Antler’s “Familiars”.

After releasing a couple of albums on his own as The Anlters, Peter Silberman was joined by multi instrumentalist Darby Cicci and Michael Lerner on drums, and Familiars is the third album from them as a threesome.

The band have frequently been joined by fellow Brooklyn resident Sharon Van Etten on backing vocals (whose latest album is reviewed earlier here), and as you’d expect from their postal address, we’re very much in the beating heart of hipsterland here.

What makes the music of The Antlers so engaging is their very distinct tone. They craft songs of emotional honesty, naivety almost, and posit them in an expansive if minutely cultivated musical landscape. These are then given body with a succession of unapologetically gorgeous melodies that are draped in Silberman’s sweeping, elegiac vocals.

Some time backing vocalist Sharon Van Etten.

Some time backing vocalist Sharon Van Etten.

Though the results are in many ways very different, it somehow calls to mind Nixon, Lambchop’s seminal album from 2000. Kurt Wagner and his band though were more clearly defined as coming under the alt country rubric. The Antlers will only ever be listed under Indie. They just manage to be incredibly melodic without ever being saccharine. But best of all, they are unashamedly earnest.

There is little in the way of irony or distance here. All of the sophistication is invested in the music. So there’s an emotional heft to the songs that the sweeping melodies only serve to heighten. The boys from Pitchfork gave it an impressed 7.8 here

And you can see the video for their single Palace here.

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Sharon Van Etten’s new album “Are We There” Soars.

Sharon Van Etten's Are We There.

Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There.

Sharon Van Etten has been wowing the good folks at NPR’s All Songs Considered (reviewed earlier here) and the boys from Pitchfork for some time now. Her last album Tramp (2012) was produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner and includes a guest appearance from Beirut’s Zach Condon. And in his profile of her in this month’s New Yorker (‘Relaxed Fit”), Sasha Frere-Jones describes her latest album as “astonishing”.  In other words, we’re talking indie royalty here.

Her fourth studio album, Are We There, is a serious piece of work. But on first listen, it seems to be a tad conservative, conventional even. There’s nothing here that we haven’t heard before. Songs of heartache set to pleasing melodies layered with lush harmonies.

The mandatory All Songs Considered podcast.

The mandatory All Songs Considered podcast.

What’s “astonishing” is how the whole adds up to so much more than the sum of its parts. These are songs that really ache, and those melodies and harmonies build and grow with every listen. Before you know it, they’re securely lodged in the comfort of your subconscious.

This is the album Van Etten has been building up to. Sonically, she’s come a long way from the hushed confessionals of those early recordings. This is a much fuller sound, but it’s achieved without sacrificing any of the intimacy. On the contrary, the bigger sound amplifies the emotional heft. What’s she’s produced in other words is the ultimate Fleetwood Mac album.

You can see the video for Every Time The Sun Comes Up here.

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