Review: Marissa Nadler - Songs III: Bird on the Water (2007)


artist: Marissa Nadler
release: Songs III: Bird on the Water
format: CD
year of release: 2007
label: Peace­frog
dur­a­tion: 48:06

detailed info: dis​cogs​.com

Songs III: Bird on the Water is, you might have guessed, Nadler’s third album, only a couple of years after her excel­lent debut. Now, I was very enthu­si­astic about this albums pre­de­cessor, The Saga of May­flower May, so expect­a­tions were high. But, as it turns out, a nat­ural singing and song­writ­ing tal­ent like Marissa does not dis­ap­point. Songs III has per­haps lost a bit of the gloom and ghost­li­ness that per­meated the pre­vi­ous two albums, it has gained matur­ity in an almost equal degree. This is another great col­lec­tion of folky songs with a mel­an­cholic and quirky touch.

The single “Dia­mond Heart” begins the album in a famil­iar way. Pleas­ant acous­tic fin­ger­pick­ing, Marissa’s unique sop­rano, fine man­dolin by Jesse Spar­hawk and a set of great lyr­ics about travel, loss, and long­ing. “Dying Breed” takes it to the next level with a great gui­tar melody and catchy vocal line - not to men­tion more great mys­ter­i­ous lyr­ics, this time with a heavy use of col­our, as on earlier tracks like “Yel­low Lights”. “Mex­ican Sum­mer” is a per­haps slightly con­ven­tional ‘sum­mery’ song with laid-back acous­tic chords and warm elec­tric trem­olo leads, but it works per­fectly on this album. You see, there I go: I don’t want to write about every single song, but only about the high­lights, and yet I end up writ­ing about the first three tracks in a row, with the fourth eas­ily added to it! Nat­ur­ally, because “Think­ing of You” is one of strongest tracks on the album. Another great melody, and soft cello sup­port by Helena Espvall. I’ll stop here, and just assure you that all tracks on this album are simply very strong.

A new ele­ment on this album is also the addi­tion of some psychy elec­tric gui­tar solo­ing, cour­tesy of none other than Greg Weeks (of Espers and solo fame). This is not an unequi­vocal suc­cess, in my opin­ion. On the one hand, it takes tracks like “Bird on Your Grave” and the excel­lent and dark “Rachel” into a new ori­ginal ter­rit­ory, and makes the album as a whole even more access­ible and var­ied. On the other hand, it mars the pur­ity of the songs in a way, com­pared to what we’ve become used to on the excel­lent pre­vi­ous albums - it’s not the same misty, cold sound. How­ever, com­pared to the obvi­ous qual­ity of everything presen­ted on this album, this is but a minor issue; a love-it-or-hate-it affair.

Spe­cial men­tion also goes to “Fam­ous Blue Rain­coat”, a flaw­less and heart­felt cover of Leonard Cohen. Finally, I’d like to men­tion the beau­ti­ful “My Love and I”, another one of my favour­ites. Soar­ing vocals and soft organ drift over a layer of rever­bed acous­tic gui­tar, which in this case does remind me of Marissa’s earlier albums.

After three excel­lent albums, and with a fre­quent live pres­ence across the world, I believe it’s safe to say Marissa Nadler is one of the most import­ant names in the field of altern­at­ive folk and singer/songwriter music. Per­son­ally, this album touches me just a tad less than the earlier ones, but whether you’re already a fan, or are new to Marissa’s music, Songs III is a very strong album that is well worth seek­ing out.

Reviewed by O.S.

Track­list:

1. Dia­mond Heart (3:47)
2. Dying Breed (3:38)
3. Mex­ican Sum­mer (5:27)
4. Think­ing of You (3:36)
5. Silvia (5:40)
6. Bird on Your Grave (5:02)
7. Rachel (4:20)
8. Feath­ers (3:59)
9. Fam­ous Blue Rain­coat (4:23)
10. My Love and I (3:32)
11. Leather Made Shoes (4:42)

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