Review: Marissa Nadler – July

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July is Marissa Nadler’s sixth release since her debut Ballads Of Living and Dying (2004). It follows on from The Sister (2012) and is released on Sacred Bones in the US and Bella Union in the UK. What is striking about the majority of the tunes on this album is the stark beauty of the songs. The bleak cover perfectly represents exactly what you can expect on this album, Marissa Nadler stands on her own in a dark room with small rays of light coming through the window. Her accompanying musicians on this album include: Eyvind Kang (strings), Steve Moore (synths) and Phil Wandscher (guitar). July was recorded at Seattle’s Avast Studio with producer Randall Dunn (Earth, Sun O))), Wolves in the Throne Room).

In the opening track, Drive, Nadler’s voice rises and falls in melodic lines across waves of reverb, complemented by haunting harmonies, synths, acoustic and lap-steel guitar. Firecrackers induces nostalgia of music from another era and certainly not a 2014 release. Memory and introspectiveness are prevalent throughout but this is nothing new in the work of Nadler. Dead City Emily was the first track to be released as a promo. Nadler sings about being in an in-between state, conscious but not quite. ‘I cannot recall leaving’ she sings on Dead City Emily, while on Was It A Dream, she finds herself not knowing where she is, ‘stumbling from room to room’ longing for someone to wake up to.

Anyone Else is regret captured in a song, regret for being romantically involved with a person and also for that person not realising his potential -‘what a lie you are living now. You could have been someone else’s better side.’ It is one of the darker songs on the album of which there are a few as Nadler delves deep into herself in order to dredge up what she finds and reproduce this in song.

Holiday In is another song of about a certain time, a photo moment of being tempted and then of being left hanging by a person who has ‘a girl waiting for a rock on a bay’ but also ‘a girl in every state’. July ends in something that could be considered as melancholy as Nadler sings, ‘Maybe it’s the weather but I’ve got nothing in my heart.’ Despite this, she sings as if she doesn’t mind being this way as if she has somehow grown to accept this state.

What makes this different from The Sister is the lushness of the recordings, which Nadler’s sometimes fragile voice cannot hide behind. Having only had to change to listen to it in mp3 form, I can only imagine the incredible warmth and character listening to it on crackling vinyl would bring. Only this would fully do it justice I think.

Phil Soanes