(Box of Cedar Records)
Marissa Nadler is at her best when things get moody. I always found her atmospheric folk compelling, but less so when she veered into more pleasant pastures. Folk music isn’t exactly a new thing, so making an album of acoustic singer-songwriter music sound interesting, for me, is a bit of a challenge.
In Nadler’s case, it was always her haunting, otherworldly voice possessing her songs on winds of deep reverb that made the heartbreak, existential dread, or character pieces all the more wrenching.
Songs like the opener, “The Wrecking Ball Company,” set the darkened scene with picked guitar, ghostly keyboards and Nadler’s mournfully lilting voices that circle you like smoke. There are plenty of moments like this, as on the dreamy “Apostle,” and “Christine,” with its distant, echoey synth arpeggios frilling beneath the surface. Even the more straightforward tracks like “Constantine” are still heavy on atmosphere (in that case, thanks to some nicely distant a-rhythmic drums).
The Sister does start to run out of steam toward the end as the songs become a little too homogenous, with the notable exception of the sinewy slide guitar-led “Your Heart Is a Twisted Vine,” but with the whole album clocking in at a svelte eight songs, it’s still exactly as long as it needs to be and doesn’t overstay its welcome.
Either way, The Sister reinforces Nadler’s status as one of the most interesting modern folk singers out there. The tag “American Gothic” never so rightfully applied.