With “Strangers”, Marissa Nadler quietly seeks to share the view from her window. The aural landscape of this album slowly reveals broad brushstrokes of grey, overcast skies. The title couldn’t be more appropriate, as I was not acquainted with Marissa prior to this release. Navigating “Strangers” requires neither familiar attachments nor preconceptions. It quite simply unspools as a meditative stream of consciousness. Do not expect the first listen to yield these secrets. The view from Marissa’s window provides an incredible panoramic view once you settle in for the night.
Her directed lyrics like “I used to be like you, the first to walk away” resonate. That said, this is not an album strictly for loners, not at all. Quite the opposite. Nadler is in storyteller mode here. Her prose style harkens back to a folk era that perhaps never existed. I hear a very young, almost ethereal Patti Smith or Joni Mitchell. Each piece on this album provides a very human profile. Nadler effectively creates this quiet intimate portraiture in series. It is, however, far more than an academic study. She makes these song’s characters quite real for the listener as she narrates.
The layered harmonics of this album are deceptively simple. The reverb risks clouding the lyrics on “Hungry Is The Ghost”. It’s aching to be laid bare; I would love to hear just vocal and acoustic guitar on that track in particular. I find far more appeal in her brutally honest guitar style than in the echoing piano. The dressed down simplest guitar tracks are where she really shines. Standout track “Katie I Know” is an aural journey with feet simultaneously planted decades apart. Comforting, resonant in its simplicity; it’s likely this is a track you will revisit. It’s hard to know when to let go, indeed.
“Strangers” is indeed an aurally painted, multi-tracked and put to canvas for your consumption. Retrogressions tend make you reminisce, but Marissa is exclusively using her power for good. To me, she comes as messenger; a postmodern Kate Bush, if that’s even possible. Repeated listening makes me want to believe it is the very essence of possibility.
Marissa has indeed created a bustle in the hedgerow. You owe it to yourself to investigate.