By Dan Miller
Friday, June 8, 2012
On “The Sister,” songstress Marissa Nadler paints in a palette filled with grays. Her spare, downplayed instrumentation and feminine, pristine voice possess a haunted quality -- it could easily be played in an abandoned mansion filled with cobwebs and candelabras.
Intended to complement her self-titled 2011 release, “The Sister” doesn’t overstay its welcome; its eight songs clock in at a little more than 30 minutes. But the short album contains plenty of vision -- its lyrics overflow with symbols and emotions (“I’m floating on an apple tree, and I’m telling all the world that I once knew, that I’m in love with you” she sings on “Your Heart Is a Twisted Vine”), the guitars and pianos hang together in a unified fashion and Nadler’s voice guides listeners on the dreamy voyage.
Nadler’s songs are personal, even confessional at times, but she can prove to be a distant narrator. Exacerbated by the echo that rings on her vocals throughout the album, Nadler can seem oblique and disconnected. The effect is that the album seems like a historical record, removed from modern context.
While staying extremely consistent in tone, she manages to express subtle nuances in style from track to track. Album opener “The Wrecking Ball Company” finds Nadler going into torchy chanteuse territory. Elsewhere, soft backing vocals and gently plucked guitar give “To a Road, Love” a lush quality.