MARISSA NADLER – Little Hells (2009)

Marissa Nadler - Little Hells I’m fairly certain that Marissa Nadler is not, in fact, a ghost – but she sure sounds like one. Folk music, as an unwritten rule, tends to sound earthy, but on Little Hells, Marissa Nadler sounds decidedly as though she’s channeling/being channeled from another plane of existence. And it’s not just the music, either – the lyrics (especially in the first half of the album) possess a deep spiritual resonance.

While it’s true that Little Hells is Marissa Nadler’s most effortlessly ethereal album to date, it is not her smoothest. The flow of the album is disrupted regularly by odd song placements and unusual (but not entirely unsuccessful) stylistic choices. For example, the opening songs on the album, Heart Paper Lover and Rosary are opulent in their beauty – they sound as though they were lifted up from deep under the ocean – but after Rosary, we get Mary Comes Alive, a busy song with thinly processed drums and a somewhat jarring electric guitar that manages to ruin the atmosphere that the previous two songs had established. Now, if you listen to Mary Comes Alive by itself, it’s actually quite enjoyable, but when it shows up where it does, when it does, well, it just doesn’t fit.

In the end, I think Little Hells works best not as a cohesive album, but as a collection of songs. And as a collection of songs, it’s arguably Marissa Nadler’s best. But Songs III: Bird On The Water remains her best album.

Got that? Good.

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2 Responses to “MARISSA NADLER – Little Hells (2009)”

  1. Is it lo-fi, then? What I mean to say is, is this a production trick, or just a good performance?

  2. monopolyphonic Says:

    It’s not a lof-fi, recording, no. The otherworldly feeling the album conjures up is due first and foremost to Nadler’s ethereal voice – though I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the production (mainly the liberal use of reverb on what are often sparse compositions) occasionally plays a role as well.

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