Marissa Nadler: “Baby, I Will Leave You In The Morning”

by Michael Danaher SOURCE Alarm Press / YouTube
Photo Credit: Courtesy Marissa Nadler

A few years ago, when Marissa Nadler appeared on the indie-folk radar with her 2007 effort, Songs III: Bird on the Water, the Boston-based singer/songwriter was starting to get some much-deserved recognition in her brief but impressive career.

Now, on her fifth proper LP in just seven years, Nadler has truly found a voice within the realm of dreamlike folk. Building on a style that she has crafted on past efforts, she continues to improve her fairytale folk pop, diving into deeper waters of heartbreak and reflection on this self-titled album.

Album opener “In Your Lair, Bear” sets the tone for the record, opening with a softly plucked acoustic steel string, as Nadler croons, “Where did you go, when the snow fell that year?” The song floats on softly and slowly, drifting through sleepy, delayed guitars, whispering percussion, subtle string arrangements, and a gorgeous vocal melody, before fading.

After such a strong opening, Nadler follows it up with even more melancholic yet euphonic arrangements and melodies, expanding on what was already presented in the opening track. And thus it becomes clear: Nadler is a pro. Churning out track after track, she is once again in her element, her dream pop moving onward, waywardly and lightly.

The best part about Nadler’s unique voice, though, is that it’s never quite predictable, even if the mood has already been set. Despite the simple instrumentation present throughout the record — almost every song features an acoustic or an atmospheric electric guitar — Nadler has crafted something elusive. The songs are fleeting, moving in zigzags, without ever being pinpointed or captured. They weave in and out, and unexpected elements are common.

Standout track “Puppet Master” toys with time-signature switches. “Wedding” features longing, ghostly keyboards and vocals on a predominantly guitar-drenched album. And “Baby, I Will Leave You in the Morning” showcases a darker, self-deprecating perspective that's not present anywhere else on the album. The record even comes full circle, tracing itself back to the start, as Nadler asks, “Daisy, where did you go?” echoing a similar question posed in the album’s opener (though this time it’s with “phantom limbs and eerie hymns").

But Nadler makes it work, manufacturing a record of lovesick lullabies, with sentiments saturated in both heartbreak and hopefulness. Despite being chocked full of dueling tidbits, the record holds together like a cohesive unit — stories mixing reality with tall tales, vocals mixing loss with love, music mixing sad-stringed dirges with sleepy-eyed love songs.

With female troubadours like Joanna Newsom and St. Vincent getting so much attention in recent years, there’s no reason why a record like this — or an artist like Nadler — should go unnoticed. If anything, Nadler takes the most interesting components of those kinds of artists — the poetry, the passion, the penance — and turns them into something more accessible, all the while maintaining distance and elusiveness on each track.