Marissa Nadler (born April 5, 1981) is an American musician and fine artist based in Boston, Massachusetts. Active since 2000, she is currently signed to Sacred Bones Records and Bella Union, and released her eighth full-length studio album, For My Crimes, in September 2018. As a singer-songwriter, her music defies simple classification. Her work "is rooted in old-school country and folk but brings in elements of experimental and black metal". Sometimes the term "dream folk" has been invoked to describe her work.
Singing in a mezzo-soprano, Nadler has received acclaim for her vocals. Her voice was described by Pitchfork as one "you would follow straight into Hades", and also "textured and angelic, with just a hint of pain captured within her iridescent falsetto". The Boston Globe said, "She has a voice that, in mythological times, could have lured men to their deaths at sea, an intoxicating soprano drenched in gauzy reverb that hits bell-clear heights, lingers, and tapers off like rings of smoke".
Marissa Nadler was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Needham, Massachusetts. As a teenager, she taught herself to play guitar in a style similar to fingerpicking, playing a steady bass pattern with the thumb and filling out syncopated rhythms with the index finger. It was described as having an "unorthodox, dusky sound". Also while in her teens, she began to write songs as a hobby. She studied painting at Rhode Island School of Design, where she obtained a bachelor's degree in illustration in 2003, and a master's degree in art education a year later. During her studies, she began to perform at open mic events around Providence. While exploring artistic techniques such as illustration, painting, bookbinding, wood carving and encaustic painting, she also honed her songwriting craft. She subsequently recorded an album titled Autumn Rose (2002) as well as the four-track EP Somber Ghost Recordings (2003), neither of which have ever been released. Nadler also contributed to the Pearl Before Swine tribute album For the Dead in Space - Volumes II & III in 2003.
2004–2010: First releases
Nadler released her first official album, Ballads of Living and Dying, on Eclipse Records in January 2004. The follow-up The Saga of Mayflower May was released in July 2005. Both records were distributed in the United States by Eclipse, and by the UK label Beautiful Happiness in Europe.
Nadler went on some of her first tours with acts such as the late American primitive guitarist Jack Rose and the drone metal band Earth.
Nadler released her third studio album, Songs III: Bird on the Water, on Peacefrog Records in Europe on March 12, 2007. The album was recorded and produced by Greg Weeks of the band Espers in Philadelphia and was subsequently released in the US and Canada on August 12, 2007 by Kemado Records. It was nominated for two PLUG Independent Music Awards in 2008: "Best Female Artist of the Year" and "Best Americana Record of the Year". Nadler also won "Outstanding Singer-Songwriter of the Year" at the 2008 Boston Music Awards, with three nominations altogether.
Her fourth full-length album, Little Hells, produced by Chris Coady, was released on March 3, 2009 and received praise from many critics. including 4-star reviews from magazines such as Mojo, Rolling Stone in France and Germany, Uncut, and Q. It received an 8.3 from Pitchfork. The album departed from the earlier folk-based template with the introduction of electronic elements. In early 2010, Nadler contributed vocals on Portal of Sorrow, the final album by black metal project Xasthur.
2011–2012: Marissa Nadler and The Sister
On June 14, 2011, an eponymous record was released worldwide on Nadler's own label, Box of Cedar Records. The song "Baby, I Will Leave You in the Morning" was released as a free download on March 8, followed by a subsequent music video. The album was positively received by Pitchfork, which gave it 8.1 out of 10, and it was called "a stellar collection of sullen melodies and lovelorn anecdotes akin to those of Joni Mitchell".
On May 29, 2012, she released The Sister, a short eight-song "companion" album to Marissa Nadler. The album was dubbed by Paste as an "impressive concoction of stark minimalism".
In November 2012, Nadler collaborated with Angel Olsen on two cover songs that were shared on Nadler's SoundCloud page: the Richard and Linda Thompson song "My Dreams Have Withered and Died" and the Mickey Newbury song "Frisco Depot".
2013–2014: Sacred Bones Records and July
|"July is moon music, quiet music, slurp-merlot-in-the-fetal-position music, a slow-burning tapestry of goth-folk torch songs and woozy-pop incantations about love and loss and memory, whispered by the same spirits as Julee Cruise's airy Twin Peaks vocals."|
In 2013, she signed to Brooklyn-based Sacred Bones Records. Her album July was released by the label on February 4, 2014 and on February 10 by Bella Union in the UK. It was recorded at Seattle's Avast Studios, and produced by collaborator Randall Dunn. The first single from the album, "Dead City Emily", was released in November 2013 and positively received by Stereogum as an "ethereal spine-tingler" and by BrooklynVegan as "a track as haunting and delicate as any of her best tracks to date". July debuted at No. 16 on the Billboard Folk Albums chart and No. 14 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers albums chart.
July received positive feedback from music critics. At Metacritic, it received "universal acclaim" with a score of 83 out of 100. A majority of music publications gave July 4 out of 5 stars, among them NME, Drowned in Sound, Blurt and PopMatters, In a positive review, PopMatters called the album a "triumph" and "one of 2014's best albums so far", while Spin called it a "masterfully composed release". Vice Media's Noisey website discussed the atmosphere of the album, writing that "the darkly lit July is a moody trip through heat spells and night drives... Nadler's quiet songwriting and ethereal sound give July a sound that's, at times, almost sinister". Steven Rosen of Blurt wrote that Nadler managed to achieve an "almost-hallucinatory effect out of her singing, often multi-tracking the voice to create a ghostly pillowing effect".
In July 2014, Nadler collaborated with Father John Misty, releasing a split 7" on Bella Union. Father John Misty covered Nadler's "Drive", while Nadler covered "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings".
The album Strangers, recorded with producer Dunn in 2015, was released on May 20, 2016 on Sacred Bones and Bella Union. A limited edition version with original artwork included a pre-release cassette of Bury Your Name. The album release was accompanied by an extensive tour of North America and Europe. In late 2016, Nadler joined Ghost for the US tour.
Strangers holds a score of 76 out of 100 from Metacritic based on "generally favorable reviews". The album was listed on several lists of 2016's best albums to date, including Spin, Newsweek, Uncut and The Quietus. Spin also listed "Janie in Love" as one of the best songs of 2016 so far.
During this period, Nadler directed and animated music videos for Strangers tracks "Janie in Love" and "All the Colors of the Dark", as well as "Blood and Tears", a Danzig cover she had self-released as a digital-only single for Halloween 2015. In late September 2016, a video for the Strangers song "Dissolve", featuring both animation and live performance, was released on Pitchfork.tv.
2017–2018: Leave the Light On: Bedroom Recordings and For My Crimes
After touring Europe and North America promoting Strangers, Nadler guested on the Lawrence Rothman album The Book of Law (2017), and on Ojalá (2017), the debut album by Lost Horizons, a duo consisting of Simon Raymonde (Cocteau Twins) and Richie Thomas (Dif Juz, the Jesus and Mary Chain). On September 15, 2017, Sacred Bones released Nadler's first compilation album, Leave the Light On: Bedroom Recordings, a collection of home recordings and demos dating back to 2014. She also self-released two covers albums on Bandcamp for free download.
|“The latest in a long career of consistently stellar records, For My Crimes is a shining example of how Nadler continues to impress and improve upon each release"|
|— Consequence of Sound|
Nadler's eighth studio album, For My Crimes, was released by Sacred Bones on September 28, 2018. Rolling Stone wrote that, in contrast to the 2014 break-up album July, For My Crimes, "seems to touch instead on the daily realities of making a relationship work, the epilogue to a happily-ever-after love story when real life kicks in". It was her first album cover to feature her fine art, an untitled painting. The album included guest vocals by Olsen, Sharon Van Etten and Kristin Kontrol. The album's first video, "Blue Vapor", was directed by Thomas McMahan, who "utilizes various experimental and mixed media animation techniques, merging the mood and imagery of the song with hallucinatory visuals..." Nadler's wardrobe in the video for "Blue Vapor" was created and put together by New York-based costume designer and stylist Jenni Hensler, who also styled Nadler's Pitchfork.tv performance clip for the song "Dissolve."
For My Crimes reached No. 24 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers Albums chart on October 13, 2018. The album was relatively well-received by critics and fans, holding a score of 77 out of 100 "generally favorable reviews" on Metacritic. It was listed as the seventh best album of 2018 by Bandcamp, at No. 45 by Albumism, at No. 35 by BrooklynVegan, at No. 9 by Fractured Air, and at No. 2 by The Vinyl District, and was named the 19th best folk album of the year by Paste and the best roots album of 2018 by No Depression. The title track was selected by NPR DJ Bob Boilen as one of his favorite songs of the year, and "Blue Vapor" was singled out as one of the best songs of the year by Tiny Mix Tapes, Treble Zine and Revolver magazine.
2019-present: "Poison" / "If We Make It Through The Summer" and Droneflower
On February 21, 2019, Nadler released a collaborative track with John Cale called "Poison". On the same day she shared another song called "If We Make It Through The Summer". Her collaborative album with Stephen Brodsky, Droneflower will be released on April 26, 2019. The album received positive reviews, earning a 8/10 score from Soundblab, 8/10 from Popmatters, 7/10 from Atwood Magazine, 7/10 from Earbuddy, 3.5/5 from The Thin Air and a 4.5/5 from Cryptic Rock. The music website Everythingisnoise remarked, "this mind meld between Nadler and Brodsky is unexpectedly brilliant." and SLUG Magazine called the collaboration a "cosmic collision" in a favorable review. Droneflower was performed at three East Coast shows in June 2019, together with the release of a claymation video of "For the Sun." On December 6, 2019 Nadler and Brodsky released two cover songs on Bandcamp that were not included on the Droneflower album: "In the air tonight" by Phil Collins and "More than words" by Extreme (band). Nadler's figurative and sonic work again converged at the Grauzone Festival in The Hague in February 2020 with a stage performance and simultaneous exhibition of self-portrait paintings. In addition, 2020 saw the publication two limited-edition books of photography.
- Ballads of Living and Dying (2004, Eclipse Records)
- The Saga of Mayflower May (2005, Eclipse Records)
- Songs III: Bird on the Water (2007, Kemado Records)
- Little Hells (2009, Kemado Records)
- Marissa Nadler (2011, Box of Cedar Records)
- July (2014, Sacred Bones Records/Bella Union)
- Strangers (2016, Sacred Bones Records/Bella Union)
- For My Crimes (2018, Sacred Bones Records/Bella Union)
- Droneflower (2019, Sacred Bones Records) with Stephen Brodsky
- Four-Track Recordings, Outtakes (2005)
- Ivy and the Clovers (2007)
- Little Hells: Acoustic Demos (2010)
- Various Covers Over the Years (2010)
- Covers Volume II (2011)
- S/T Demos (2012)
- Covers (2017)
- Covers 2 (2018)
- Leave the Light On: Bedroom Recordings (2017, Sacred Bones Records)
- The Sister (2012, Box of Cedar Records)
- Before July: Demos and Unreleased Songs (2014, Box of Cedar Records)
- Bury Your Name (2016, Sacred Bones Records/Bella Union)
- "Diamond Heart"/"Leather Made Shoes" 7" (2006, My Kung Fu)
- "Diamond Heart"/"Dying Breed" 7" (2007, Peacefrog Records)
- "River of Dirt" CD (2009, Kemado Records)
- "Dead City Emily" digital-only (2013, Sacred Bones Records)
- "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings"/"Drive" 7" (2014, Bella Union) (split single with Father John Misty)
- "Solitude" ) digital-only (2015, self-released)
- "Blood and Tears" ) digital-only (2015, self-released)
- "Janie in Love" digital-only (2016, Sacred Bones Records)
- "All the Colors of the Dark" digital-only (2016, Sacred Bones Records)
- "Poison"/"If We Make It Through the Summer" (2019, KRO Records) (with John Cale)
- Xasthur - Portal of Sorrow (2010, Hydra Head Records)
- Sailors with Wax Wings - "Strange That I Should Have Grown So Suddenly Blind" on Sailors with Wax Wings (2010, Angel Oven Records)
- Cloud Seeding - "Unquestioning" on Ink Jar (2011, Bleek Records)
- Carter Tanton - "Fake Pretend" on Free Clouds (2011, Western Vinyl)
- Hallelujah the Hills - No One Knows What Happens Next (2012, Discrete Pageantry Records)
- Case Studies - "Villain" on This Is Another Life (2013, Sacred Bones Records)
- Emily Jane White - "Dandelion Daze" and "Faster than the Devil" on Blood / Lines (2013, Talitres Records)
- Carter Tanton - "Jettison the Valley" on Jettison the Valley (2016, Western Vinyl)
- Ben Watt - "New Year of Grace" on Fever Dream (2016, Unmade Road)
- Lushlife + CSLSX - "Integration Loop" on Ritualize (2016, Western Vinyl)
- Okkervil River - Away (2016, ATO Records)
- Lost Horizons - "Winter's Approaching" and "I Saw the Days Go By" on Ojalá (2017, Bella Union)
- Lawrence Rothman - "Ain't Afraid Of Dying" on The Book of Law (2017, Downtown Records/Interscope Records)
- Mercury Rev - "Refractions" on Bobbie Gentry's The Delta Sweete Revisited (2019, Partisan Records)
The following is an incomplete list of compilation albums that include tracks by Nadler.
- "Ballad to an Amber Lady" on For the Dead in Space – Volumes II & III (2003, Secret Eye Records)
- "Ms John Lee" on New Skin for the Old Ceremony: The Polyamory Nine Year Anniversary Compilation (2005, Polyamory)
- "Your Dreary Days Are Dead" on Talitres Is 5 (2006, Talitres Records)
- "Judgement Day" on Not Alone (2006, Durtro/Jnana Records)
- "Clowne Towne" on Remixed & Covered (2007, 5 Rue Christine)
- "No Surprises" on Reprises Inrocks (2008, Les Inrockuptibles)
- "Lonesome" on Brainwaves 2008 (2008, Brainwashed Recordings)
- "The Kiss" on Crayon Angel: A Tribute to the Music of Judee Sill (2009, American Dust)
- "All My Trials" on Beautiful Star: The Songs of Odetta (2009, Wears the Trousers Records)
- "Famous Blue Raincoat" on Cohen Revisited (A Tribute to Leonard Cohen) (2009, Les Inrockuptibles)
- "Daisy, Where Did You Go?" on Yuletide (2010, Disco Naïveté)
- "Dead Birds in Arkansas" on Music & Migration II (2011, Second Language)
- "The Killing Moon" on Free Music Impulse (2011, Hybryda)
- "You've Got It All Wrong" on For Tom Carter (2013, Deserted Village)
- "Half as Much" on You Be My Heart (2013, Devon Reed)
- "It's Easier Now" on Through The Static and Distance: The Songs of Jason Molina (2015, Burst & Bloom)
- "The Kindness of Strangers" on Todo Muere Volume 4 (2016, Sacred Bones)
- "So Long And Far Away" on Remembering Mountains: Unheard Songs by Karen Dalton (2016, Tompkins Square)
- "Solitude" on Todo Muere Volume 5 (2016, Sacred Bones)
- "Carnival" on One Hundred Thousand Voices (2016, Active Minds, Inc.)
- "Absolutely Sweet Marie" on Blonde on Blonde Revisited (2016, Mojo)
- "Rosemary" on Our First 100 Days (2017, Our First 100 Days)