Contrary to its name, this record is cold and intimate, and Marissa Nadler’s most satisfying release to date.
Sacred Bones, 2014
7.5 / 10
Marissa Nadler is an American singer-songwriter who creates ambient and ethereal folk music. I (like many people) didn’t take much notice of Nadler until she released her critically acclaimed self-titled record in 2011 on Box of Ceder Records, which I am still greatly fond of today. Now that she is signed to a considerably larger label (Sacred Bones), I was expecting Nadler’s style to change and develop and after listening to this record; I’m glad she didn’t.
The standout track on here is the lead single “Dead City Emily”, which capitalizes on her fragile voice with an eerie production, complete with floating electronic flourishes which lift the chorus to make it her best song yet. Other highlights include “Firecrackers” which sounds like an archive folk song from the ’60s with is hazy and unworldly production. “Was It Dream” is another highlight, “Was it a dream or Something sinister?” she asks over a dark and intense instrumentation complete with dramatic strings and guitar. “Holiday In” recalls her earlier country style, a gorgeous track which builds on an intricate guitar line.
Although there isn’t technically a bad song on here, the tracks are best listened to on their own. Individually they shine and the Nadler’s skill and beauty can be fully appreciated. But as a full-length, there is frustratingly little diversity — with the exception of the standout tracks like “Dead City Emily” and “Holiday In”, the songs can blend into one at times. It’s hard to criticize July, when these songs are sang so beautifully and mastered so impeccably. Nadler has always had a knack for songwriting, her storytelling is so vivid that it is all too easy to get sucked in. There is always an underlying sinister tone throughout the album. For example, “Firecrackers” uses the poignant lyrics “Firecrackers, burnt into heaven on the floor / my attacker, it’s me your looking for” ensures that you’ll never quite look at a fireworks display in the same way again.
When listening to this record my advice to you will be to drop everything else you are doing and really listen. The small details are the most astonishing. July, contrary to the name, is a cold and intimate record which exhibits Nadler’s ethereal vocals wonderfully. Despite the lack of diversity between the tracks, I feel that Nadler has really mastered her craft here and this makes it her most satisfying release to date.