On the cover of her new album For My Crimes Marissa Nadler has painted a darkly gothic scene, rich in texture and featuring momentary glimpses of light. Her music too immerses us in the darkness of empty seaspaces, foggy skies and flickering fires. Winter is approaching fast, and this is a perfect soundtrack to the cold, fading light of the year.
Title track For My Crimes is a gothic blood-red noir where she sings like a woman condemned and pleads ‘don’t remember me for my crimes’. Angel Olsen joins her on eerie backing vocals. The evocative strings sound like a lament for the dead.
Doomed romance is the central narrative of the record. I Can’t Listen To Gene Clark Anymore is an understated ode to the musical power of the Byrds member and her ex-lover who once sang his songs. The stylish sixties shimmer makes this one sound like a lost, dusty classic from another era.
As the album leads us further towards the darkening skies, I kept thinking about how evocative these songs are, reminding me of Bobbie Gentry (in fact Nadler will appear on Mercury Rev’s Delta Sweete project next year). Stark arrangements like on the haunting Are You Really Gonna Move to The South create swirling storms like Gentry once did.
Love is something to escape from on Lover Release Me, she’s dying in the dark. Blue Vapour has a similar menacing foreboding at its heart, with the wish to disappear and escape from the pain of enduring another heartbreak. On Interlocking she sees her life entwined with another’s, but she cannot escape. By the time we reach We’re All Out of Catastrophes she is planning her way out. Her destination – ‘I know I’m going to hell’.
Nadler takes us out on open water, into choppy seas and uncharted territory but we can see the safety of shore in the distance. Her voice is too rich and soothing to ever throw us overboard completely. On ‘Dream Dream Big in the Sky’, she’s had enough of coming undone. Now she’s imagining something else, something better. The simple beauty of the music cannot fail to raise the spirits.
Lust and lawlessness permeate the songs, on Harmless her lover is dangerous and deadly when they are together. She takes responsibility for her own part in their downfall, admitting she ‘darkened your light’. In the afterglow of the relationship a Flamethrower burns the remains. The era ends on Said Goodbye to the Car. Everything must go. Only then can you hope to begin again.
Amid the wreckage something beautiful has been born. For My Crimes is a moody monochrome masterpiece.