After her most recent release, 2009’s Little Hells, Marissa Nadler contributed extensive vocals to Portal Of Sorrow, the swansong by the atmospheric metal act Xasthur. But that doesn’t mean that Nadler’s fifth, self-titled album takes a turn for the heavy. At least not in the conventional sense—Marissa Nadler is indeed expansive, but it presses on the chest and pulls at the soul in its own feathery, ethereal way.
The album peels back the meatier arrangements found on Little Hells; the result is bony and brittle, with Nadler’s poisoned-candy voice and birdlike plucking occasionally joined by accompanist Carter Tanton. The lap steel is particularly ghostly on “The Sun Always Reminds Me Of You,” in which Nadler turns the innocuous refrain of “You look like someone that I used to know” into an aching, yearning mantra. And “Wedding,” with its cloudlike overlay of melancholic ambience, imagines a death-waltz mating of Mark Kozelek and Jolie Holland.
Two songs on the album, “Mr. John Lee Revisited” and “Daisy, Where Did You Go?”, serve as sequels to earlier Nadler compositions. But “Daisy”—which picks up where Nadler’s doom-ridden, conjoined-twin folktale “Daisy & Violet” leaves off—offers the most shimmering imagery: “Daisy, where did you go,” Nadler trills in the cracked syllables of the surviving sister, “with my phantom limbs and eerie hymns?” The answer is implicit: They’re woven into every fiber of Marissa Nadler.