Marissa Nadler is transformed when she sings.
Re-tuning her guitar while standing on one leg, or engaging in what she admits is “awkward stage banter”, the Boston based singer-songwriter is all gangly embarrassment. As soon as she starts to perform, however, she becomes a sultry Lana Del Rey for the dispossessed.
Seventh album Strangers, which was released last month, is a broad concept about people who find themselves on the outside and the characters here are constantly alone, ghost-like, or passive observers. Her mezzo-soprano is the perfect conduit for such emotions, having the resignation of Angel Olsen on ‘All The Colours Of The Dark’ and the timeworn quality of Sharon van Etten on ‘Dissolve’.
There are also plenty of musical similarities with the aforementioned artists; ‘Drive’ and the title track of her recent long-player being rooted in vintage country. These songs are nonetheless drenched in layers of reverb, which brings a dream-pop element to the core of her Americana.
This slow, late night fogginess is the key appeal of her material. Solo for the first four tracks, she’s intimate and beset by wavering uncertainly on the like of ‘Firecrackers’. Later joined by a three-piece band, ‘Nothing Feels The Same’ and ‘Hungry Is The Ghost’ turn up the volume on her soft focus rock (“I’ve learned that playing guitar is really fun!” she grins after playing a break on the latter).
These self-same qualities are conversely the material’s limitation. A mid-set lull is encountered as the emotional mood and the musical tempo stagnate with ‘Skyscraper’, in particular, meandering despite its early promise of maudlin violin and atmospherically brushed drums.