Marissa Nadler - July | Album Review | By Volume

What is this life, why do we strive? Fast on a wheel, too fast to feel. One day, my love, this life will slow. Sam Brookes - One Day
NadlerJuly

Marissa Nadler

July

Ethereal and cold folk music. But still a deeply personal, engulfing and downright beautiful record.

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Author: on February 26, 2014
8.4
Sacred Bones

I first came into contact with Marissa Nadler’s music on a sweltering afternoon while living in Georgia a few years ago. The American South East isn’t for the faint of heart when heat is concerned. Frequent afternoons after work were spent on a second-floor porch with my dog, soaking in sweat as I napped for a few hours until the heat subsided. My Yankee bones were nowhere ready for this shit and no amount of sweet tea was going to help. I had to simply temper my breaths, relax and learn to adapt to buckets of liquid cascading off my body on the daily. Once the usual brisk early-evening rain-shower would wash over Savannah and the fog would rise from the streets, you knew it was time to arise and continue your day.

For the first few weeks though, I was fairly certain that a Southern summer wasn’t ever going to work out. In a futile attempt at adaptation, I would keep a fan blasting ice-cold air on me at any chance I could. I avoided the the heat with a fervent passion, or tried the best I could with a faulty-at-best central air system in my 200-year-old rental home. I wouldn’t let my New England roots evolve. Soon, I found passing out for a daily snooze would alleviate my languid state for the most part. Coupled with what you could call “chilly” music, I’d find a little pocket of imaginary cold to stuff myself into during those balmy days where I couldn’t escape the heat. It was in these afternoons spent trying to rediscover frigid temperatures that I found Nadler’s music.

It was perfect, this ethereal folk music, anchored by Nadler’s wondrous soprano — a thick, almost smoky croon. It settles into you and your clothes. Its scent is distinct and inescapable once you’ve spent enough time with her records. With it she paints pictures of snowy landscapes and her own traverses across North America, or else fractured relationships that seem as distant as Earth is to Mars. But there’s also always an underlying heat to her tunes, like a warm cabin in the middle of a blizzard, with smoke billowing from its chimney as a fire burns brightly from within. This is because of Nadler’s voice, beautifully deep, trapped in an icy shield. When it breaks free, melting away its prison, we’re able to witness something truly breathtaking. And while you could argue Nadler’s serene guitarplay is what truly keeps her compositions flowing, her voice is just too distinct, too special to be missed. Even if she’s an absolute treat with her six-string. Though in my mind I hold her in similar regard to say, a St. Vincent or Laura Marling –like them, she’s never produced anything close to bad, or even average, for that matter – it’s a matter of personal preference which Great Record matters to you most. July, her sixth album, is probably her best to date.

I was coming apart those days / I don’t give a damn about the way”, Nadler sings on the exceptional “Dead City Emily”, a song that acts as a perfect encapsulation of Nadler’s music. It’s haunting, deeply introspective and at times heartbreaking; Nadler can be happy just fine, but her music is at its best when melancholy. “I had it all wrong / I was about to believe / That I could fall for you / And you had eyes for me”, she painfully intones on “Desire”, yet this dejection, this tangible sense of failure, is terribly uplifting. Nadler is able to transmit this catharsis through her music in the form of intense instrumental beauty and flat-out heart wrenching lyricism. When you surround all these tales of loss and longing with such intricate and gorgeous music, it forms a weird downtrodden ecstasy that is very easy to get lost in.

When it came to those uncomfortable afternoons spent wasting away as the Southern sun sank into the horizon, Nadler’s music surrounded me in an icy fog. It’s not destructive and chaotic enough to be a blizzard, but I think July is a fitting title for this record. While to most July is the height of the northern hemisphere’s summer, in New England, where Nadler hails from, we’re just getting past the shitty wet season that is April through June. Summer is only starting to come into full swing, and each night, nearly inescapably, a fog will roll in as the temperatures drop once more and the sun dips. This thick fog, this warm mist – it is Nadler’s music in essence. It will find its way up from the depths, that cold, regardless of your efforts. It will be back. In this situation, though, it’s a welcome reprieve from the sweltering bullshit surrounding you. July is less a cold, distant ode to sorrow and more a crisp, cool breeze swooping in to revive your senses and remind you there’s no joy to be had without a little pain.

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