Album Review: Marissa Nadler's 'The Sister'


Boston singer-songwriter Marissa Nadler specializes in an eerie, haunting sort of pastoral song that lays in wait for you to pass by on some wooded path, then trails unshakably along behind you. It’s a role she grew to fully inhabit on a self-titled LP she released last year, and she refines the part on her latest, “The Sister,” released on her own Box of Cedar Records. (She performs Saturday, June 2, at Cafe Nine in New Haven.)

“The Sister” is a collection of eight songs showcasing her wispy forest-queen voice, which she surrounds with quietly foreboding musical arrangements of acoustic guitars, strings and occasional percussion, all of which hints at some distant turbulence, either out in the world or on the edges of her own psyche.

Either way, it’s arresting on “Apostle,” as she sings over minor-key fingerpicked guitar and layers double-tracked vocals on the chorus that raise chills. “Constantine” is a ghostly remembrance of a former rock ‘n’ roll boyfriend, while extra-deep bass notes (courtesy of Earth’s Jesse Sparhawk) only highlight the ethereal combination of Nadler’s voice and acoustic guitar on “In a Little Town,” as a low wash of synthesizers drift through the background.

Like the rest of “The Sister,” the song is at once alluring and unsettling, as if the idyll she presides over is a place you can enter, but never leave. Actually, that’s exactly what her songs are: there’s no escaping her songs once you fall under the spell they cast, but then, you won’t want to.

— Eric R. Danton

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