Review Summary: RIYL: heavy doses of forlorn nostalgia, chilly autumn evenings, artists taking control of their material and actually striking off in a worthwhile direction
The most prominent feature of The Sister
is that Marissa Nadler, long-time play-by-the-rules songstress, exerting much more control over her artistic integrity and beginning to steer her discography in new, interesting directions. With a more flexible label, Box of Cedar, that she operates herself, Nadler is free to sweep her newest record under a film of hazy atmosphere and a gauzy aesthetic. Predictably, this complements her forlorn wailing and deliberate plucking quite nicely. It’s in this way that she artfully adds another (necessary) layer and dimension to her schtick; and in short, it’s a definite success.
The sound of The Sister
is a simple one, but it’s wonderful to see a talented artist like herself straying in this direction. Nadler’s voice drifts slowly and mellifluously in-between her carefully-picked, sparse chords, together which quietly establish a strong aura of ambience-- The Sister
’s most defining quality. Each track bleeds seamlessly into the next, making the album self-contained-- even dark or bleak. Nowhere is this more evident than the whispery and strained vocal tactic Nadler employs on closer “Your Heart Is a Twisted Vine.” Lost love and nostalgia are fittingly two common lyrical themes, throughout. Similarly, “In A Little Town” is a wistful, dreamy track that captures the essence of The Sister
, recounting memories and past loves as her voice sails to celestial heights.
Again though, The Sister
doesn’t do wonders to truly highlight the prowess that the songwriter may be hiding behind layers of a narcotic trance. The chords throughout are simple; which, while not necessarily a detraction in an of itself, highlights areas of possible improvement. Andrew Bird’s recent Break It Yourself
provides the perfect counterexample that exemplifies how arrangement of even the simplest chords can be organized in an evermore interesting and intriguing way.
The mixing features Nadler’s vocals rather loudly over the music, again reinforcing Ms. Nadler as the main feature of the record, as opposed to merely letting the ambience take control. Perhaps this is the next step in Nadler’s trajectory, and it’s one that would make sense considering the strides that The Sister
makes, but right now we’re left with a notch in her timeline to savor. The Sister
is her most entrancing yet; and while that not mean much for fans that adored the more folksy breakouts Songs III: Bird on the Water
or Little Hells
, but count her recent record as a victory for anyone that wishes to be pulled away from the world for a moment by the songstresses haunting voice. Now that she’s proven that a greater hand in the creativity department doesn’t lead to a crash-and-burn, here’s to hoping that this newfound control of her artistry elicits Ms. Nadler straying further and further down the path she’s chosen for herself on The Sister