February 23, 2014

Marissa Nadler, "July"

My first pick of the year is a record I've listened to at least once a day since it came out two weeks ago, Marissa Nadler's July. A decade into her career, the singer-songwriter is still successfully mining that classic dichotomy of atmospheric arrangements and delicate vocals matched to hard-earned poetry about loss. She's a folk artist if you have to put a label on her, but her songs aren't ramshackle or rootsy. They're delicate icons, seemingly chiseled out of stone and perfected over dozens of fog-soaked mornings, then left like artifacts to maybe someday meet the sun. July is an A-plus "mood record." The production is lush — anchored by Nadler's voice and fingerpicked acoustic, but elevated by the psychedelic touches of producer Randall Dunn and the glistening guitars of Phil Wandscher. There's big reverb and lots of space. Close your eyes and you're inside an old gothic novel. My favorite part is how Marissa is always letting the contemporary creep into her lyrics — drunk dialing a lover, the melancholy of a hotel room, changing clothes in a truck stop gas station and being careful not to touch the floor with your bare feet. It's like going into a little world, or a peek inside a diary. Great stuff. Put it on late at night and wake up a different person.