Marissa Nadler exposes darker aspects of love, relationships with excellent ‘For My Crimes’

Photo by Ebru Yildiz

Relationships can be stretched thin. Things can get in the way, distance can keep two people apart for too long, and people’s connections can dissolve without even realizing it’s taking place. Love can be wonderful and freeing, but it also can be torturous and painful, leaving your heart bloody and beaten.

On her breathtaking eighth record “For My Crimes,” Nadler confronts the delicacy of love and relationships and the things that can weigh down on those ties with these 11 tracks, which are some of the best of her decade and a half as an artist. I feel like we say that every time Nadler returns with a new record, and its because she keeps refining herself, digging deeper into her own psyche, and boldly revealing parts of herself, even if they’re the aspects that hurt the most. Along with her on this record are notable guests who add their own textures and voices to the songs, including Angel Olsen, Kristin Kontrol (Dum Dum Girls as well as a solo artist), Sharon Van Etten, Patty Schemel (drummer for Hole), harpist Mary Lattimore¸ and multi-instrumentalist Janel Leppin, and saxophonist Dana Colley (Morphine). Nadler is the centerpiece here, no doubt, but the artists who color in the edges help her round up these tremendous songs and glimpses into her world and life.

The title track has Nadler playing the role of a criminal on death row staring down a long corridor, her wrists tied, as she faces the wrong she’s done, balancing this role with her own life. “Please don’t remember me for my crimes,” she pleads, as the song slips into solemnity amid the haze of squeaking strings. “I Can’t Listen to Gene Clark Anymore” is about longing for a riding partner now gone, as she admits, “It’s getting harder to save you from the fire,” as she laments that listening to the Byrds founder’s songs is impossible without her partner. “Are You Really Gonna Move to the South” also tags loneliness, as she fears someone’s imminent departure, noting she has been, “Sleepwalking through the days, I’ve been out of my mind.” “Lover Release Me” is, like much of what’s on here, quiet and acoustic, as love’s grasp gets too tight, as she realizes, “I’m dying in the dark with you.” Organs rush in and amplify the mood before all light fades. “Blue Vapor” is a stunner, one of the finest songs of her rich catalog, as guitars churn, the pace is a little rougher, and the easily intoxicating chorus gets into your head and never leaves, no matter how many times you hear it.

“Interlocking” takes the mood even further into the shadows, with Nadler noting, “Every day’s a bad day, and I’ve been so down,” which is so emotionally punishing. Dark guitars then drip, while the track ends on a gothy note. “All Out of Catastrophes” extends the bad luck run, nothing a lover calling her by the wrong name at night is one of the nicer things that has happened to her, while later she opines, “I’m going to hell,” repeatedly, as her heart dissolves. “Dream Dream Big in the Sky” has a simple chorus, though its strong and always comes back to haunt, and an extra gust of atmosphere thickens the clouds. “You’re Only Harmless When You Sleep” has a different touch, and she goes more straightforward folk, while she recalls, “You saw my death in a dream,” as she makes good on the song’s title. She feels her downfall every time her partner rests, and it makes for a cold, chilling song. “Flamethrower” has her pushing, “You wanted to burn, burn, burn, leaving only charred remains,” sounding like she’s writing a death metal cut, but delivering the line with fragility and pain. The guitars weep, as a Western feel is infused, and then it bleeds away. Closer “Said Goodbye to That Car” bids farewell to love as well, as she longs for lost days all the while telling her story through an old car she says once “took a bullet in New Haven.” The unique chorus of, “119657, and the engine blew,” is both catchy but sorrowful, as Nadler cuts ties with her past as she leaves for old car behind.

Nadler’s darkness, her personal touch to her music, and her willingness to display her vulnerability is something that’s always attracted us to her music, and that continues in spades on “For My Crimes.” She has a voice that is unmistakable and can’t be duplicated and a way about creating music that can touch all the sensitive scars inside and as well as all those times we felt the same way and couldn’t think of a way to express ourselves. And she slays that beast every single time

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