Marissa Nadler – July

An album titled July might offer the promise of songs bathed in the warm and golden light of summer but there is something darker at work on this 6th album from Boston based singer-songwriter Marissa Nadler. Nadler has been making eerie, ethereal folk music since the release of her first album back in 2004.

July represents a major progression and is by some distance her strongest album to date. This is a delicately rendered collection of Southern Gothic lullabies; Nadler explores themes of lost love, separation and the longing for things we can never have.

It is at times breathtakingly beautiful -opener ‘Drive’ introduces us to Marissa Nadler’s bewitching voice; imagine the yearning of Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval crossed with the sombre elegance of Leonard Cohen. That yearning is central to so many of the songs here; ‘1923’ burns with longing while ‘Dead City Emily’ floats by, a dreamy wistful reverie for the past.

There is a strong alt-country influence in the plucked acoustic and pedal steel guitar arrangements that give this album an air of refinement that wasn’t as evident on the more straight ahead Goth Folk of her early records. Impeccably produced, each instrument occupies its own clearly defined space with Nadler’s beautiful voice pushed up high in the mix as a voice as richly compelling as hers should be.

The dark sensuality of tracks like ‘Desire’ and ‘Holiday In’ brings to the fore another side to Nadler – this is music that seduces and allures. Spectral harmonies and dreamy elegance lure you in but just below the surface beats a blackened heart; there is a baleful and sinister undercurrent that something is not quite right.

Like the most beautiful rose with the sharpest thorns, July is an album of exquisite gorgeousness veiling the hidden, darker depths of heartbreak and loss. It is the work of a songwriter at the height of her powers, a soundtrack to those moments where the line between dreams and nightmares is blurred.

Irresistible.

 

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)