Compact Disc (CD), Vinyl LP
Marissa Nadler is comfortably the most consistent folk artist plucking an acoustic guitar right now. With eight studio albums in 14 years—not a dud among them—plus a number of self-released records, EPs, guest spots, and compilation appearances, she boasts the super prolific output of studio-loitering rappers, productive paperback writers, or Samuel L. Jackson. But For My Crimes might well be the best record in her saintly catalog. After the heavier, post-rock atmospherics of her fine 2016 release Strangers, Nadler opts for a more stripped-down ethos. The result is an emotionally resonant record that highlights her strong melodies and trenchant songwriting as well as any collection of songs in her enviable oeuvre.
Take the title track, which sees Nadler slide into the role of a criminal awaiting their execution. Her ethereal voice carries a little more weight these days when compared to the more ghostly tones of, say, 2007’s Songs III: Bird On The Water, meaning the songwriting packs an even heavier punch. On “For My Crimes,” the inmate desperately considers “the corridor”—the last hallway they will ever see—and muses on the meaning of their life: “Please don’t remember me for my crimes.” The chugging electric guitar chords of “Blue Vapor,” another highlight, feel like the dead of night to the insomnia sufferer. What hefty weight that has attached itself to the singer’s soul for her to depict such gloaming throughout her career is one of modern folk’s great mysteries.
With her perfectly formed songform aesthetic and divine vocal chords, Nadler can sound like the holy anecdote in a dimension of evil forces or a cursed baroness. She’s the invert to, say, Joanna Newsom, whose body of work has warmer shades. This is a compliment. Some people have a wickedness in their spirits that needs depicting too. Almost a decade and a half into her recording career and Nadler still sees a darkness.