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Songs III: Bird on the Water

CD Review: Marissa Nadler

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The Deal: Promising set from up-and-coming folkie.

The Good: I was all set to flay Marissa Nadler's new record when I read the pre-release publicity -- yippee, thought I, another doily-voiced folketta plucking her acoustic and slapping on some Pro-Tools effects to cash in on the Friends of Devendra folktronica train. Sometimes you just want to slap 'em silly with Fugazi and Minutemen discs. But I won't be engaging in that sort of anti-social behavior because Songs III turns out be pretty folkin' good. Too many in the freak-folk clan try too hard to sound like Joe Boyd recorded their songs in a British pasture, but come off calculated or anachronistic instead. And today's female folkies often sound like poor Shirley Collins or Vashti Bunyan knock-offs.

But Nadler's sophisticated lyrics, judicious use of effects and palpable sensuality -- desire courses through these songs like warm blood -- counteract most of the twee and manage to sound fresh and timeless. The subtle arrangements are especially effective: organ, E-bowed guitar, and cello form evocative contrasts to Nadler's delicate vocals and accomplished guitar playing. Other songs, like "Dying Breed" and "Bird On Your Grave," could be more accurately described as space-folk so effective are their special effects.

The Bad: Nadler's voice is confident, but in the higher register she's in helium-huffer territory. And depending on your twee tolerance, you're going to crave something noisy with a big old bottom end as a palate cleanser.

The Verdict: Perhaps a tad precious, but a worthy addition to the new folk catalog.

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