Singer/songwriter Marissa Nadler found herself in an unenviable position in 2010. After releasing the celebrated Little Hells in 2009, she was dropped by her label. As an indie artist, Nadler turned to a Kickstarter campaign to fund this album. Issued on her Box of Cedar imprint, and produced with great care and restraint by Brian McTear, Marissa Nadler is, ironically, her lushest, warmest, most sophisticated offering yet, with its lyric and melodic concerns honed to a stiletto's edge. The haunting ballad, "Baby I Will Leave You in the the Morning," is indicative of the album's more polished direction and hints at influences outside the folksinger's earlier recordings. Carter Tanton's bass, guitars, and vibes fill out the tune's layered backbone; its more illustrative flourishes come courtesy of Orion Rigel Domisse's synths, Ben McConnell's percussion, and Nadler's swooping, soaring voice, which feels like a cross between a young and androgynous Marc Bolan's --of the acoustic Tyrannosaurus Rex incarnation -- in its phrasing and Hope Sandoval's dreamier, airier one in expression. The strumming acoustic guitars and gently shuffling drums that underscore her soaring vocal on the summery if sad "The Sun Always Reminds Me of You" are textured and given flight by Jim Callan's whining pedal steel and Domisse's upright piano. These songs reflect real growth in their melodic components for Nadler as a writer. For the most part, she forgoes the third person and delivers her poetically rich narratives from the heart of the "I." The shimmering "Alabaster Queen," adorned with her double-tracked, reverbed vocals, cymbals, Rhodes, and acoustic guitar is gently erotic in its promise of fealty. "Puppet Master" is a more English-styled post-psychedelic folk song. It's a dark reflection of eros and emotional need, and uses the physical world to depict the inner psychological machinations. The jazzy bridge with Tanton's vibes is beautiful. "Wedding" comes from the ether, with channel-shifting reverb effects that nonetheless put her voice front and center. It uses a '60s girl group melody, with her own backing vocals to create a backing chorus line. The languid, dreamy "In a Magazine" utilizes Callan's steel as its driving force; it reflects the influence of songwriter and producer Richard Hawley's obsession with Roy Orbison's dramatic sensibility. "Little King" and "Daisy Where Did You Go" are stripped down enough to recall her earlier recordings. Nothing here feels the least bit overdone. Marissa Nadler is a sensual, provocative, enticing work of vision and maturity.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek