Breakup albums aren’t typically joyful affairs. Add the always melancholy Marissa Nadler to the equation and you have a pity party waiting to happen.
That’s not to undermine the sheer eerie beauty of these sad songs. Her singing is so honest, restrained and touching, it’s impossible to imagine she recorded them without shedding a few tears. Hearing her forlorn soprano repeat “baby come back to me” against solemn strings, ghostly percussion and barely strummed guitar on “1923” is an emotionally draining but somehow cathartic experience.
As is the entire album. It digs into a moody blue groove early and rides that for 45 minutes of languid, blissful music, based in folk, but with strains of atmospheric country, sighing pop and an approach that combines the most ethereal aspects of the Cowboy Junkies and Mazzy Star. Nadler titles a song “Was it a Dream” which is what you’ll be wondering after this eleven track set winds its way to an end. Initially the tunes seem to melt into each other, but repeated spins reveal individual melodies that are wistful yet haunted and stick with you long after the final track is over.
Gloomy yet never glum, Nadler often overdubs her bittersweet voice, adding to the stark piano and guitar that underscore these heartbreaking and occasionally angry tunes. Those who need a soundtrack for a rainy night alone can take comfort in the pure reflective intimacy of this alluring and frequently enchanting album.