Review Summary: An intimate and lasting illustration of a collapsing relationship full of accusation, confession and regret.
For years, Marissa Nadler wrote songs in the manner of someone feeling a sense of unhappy nostalgia- as if returning to a cherished childhood home only to find it dusty, cold and full only of cobwebbed memories, or perhaps poring through a forgotten photo album, scanning for familiar faces only to recognise the blank expressions of people that were once considered close friends for the first time. With each subsequent album of Nadler’s, her resonant voice and moody songwriting became stronger and played more of a central role in her writing as she continued picking at this mixture of real and fictitious characters and wound them into romanticised tales about love, longing and loss. “For My Crimes”
, her latest album, oversees Nadler at her most confident yet exposes her most confessional work to date.
“For My Crimes”
, reveals the brittle bond and spousal strain between two people. Each song relates to certain references to past struggles or places the audience inside the head of the woman, illustrating what has happened to her, how she feels and how she reacts to her crumbling relationship. The fictitious theme is outlined chiefly in the lyrics of this album as this is the direct link between Marissa Nadler’s characters and Marissa herself. Consequently, songs such as the contrite title track or “I Can’t Listen to Gene Clark Anymore”, which explains how a bitter situation or person's toxicity has tarnished a once-loved thing, appear less as a narrative story and more or an introspective reflection. Many other songs sound as if she is unravelling her own history and channelling her own emotions by way of a musical medium in the hopes of finding love and forgiveness through admittance and confession. Not only is Marrisa’s music introspective, but it’s also chillingly relatable.
From the album’s bleak artwork to the sombre songwriting, desolation is a key characteristic that Nadler has poured into her eighth album. Sparse and small melodies materialise in otherwise introverted acoustic strums throughout the album to highlight a heightened sense of sadness and loneliness. “All Out of Catastrophes” is perhaps the most desolate song on the album as Nadler details a fight with her partner after he names another woman in his sleep. As a short song, it projects a numbing feeling, as if after so many catastrophes have already befallen her, another incident like this doesn’t even make her hurt any more than she did before. Second to this is “Interlocking” where she repeats that ‘trouble has been following me’ as if this sadness is as inescapable and visible as her own shadow. Given how hurtful these subjects would be to someone, her crystalline delivery sounds tragically impassive, as if accepting that this is simply the way things are.
Mercifully, the penultimate track, “Flame Thrower” is entwined with hope as after her partner has metaphorically torched the barren landscape that is their relationship, green shoots may still stem from the charred remains. On the final track, “Said Goodbye to That Car” symbolically compares her car breaking down to her relationship ending, simultaneously marking the end of an era of two cherished possessions breaking despite her best efforts to keep them alive. By saying goodbye her car, she frees herself from her destructive partner and heads off in a new direction in search of a fresh start.
It seems fitting that “For My Crimes”
should conclude in such a way as it teases the possibility of new beginnings. Though Marissa Nadler’s previous albums have each shown evolution and delicate variation, she still has plenty of ground left to explore, more characters to emblemise. Furthermore, the unfortunate issue that she faces is in the future is that she is renowned for her consistency but in time, the line between consistency and predictability often becomes blurred.