With time, you can change practically anything. You can pick up a craft, you can feel completely differently, and you can certainly see things in a new light. For Marissa Nadler, time has allowed her to come back to writing and releasing music. Nadler, at one point, vowed to never return to a label or self-release her own music, but a lucky e-mail caught her glimpse from Sacred Bones, thus, July was born. Nadler’s music, at its core, is the same, but now has a massive thematic air surrounding it. A dense mist of hazy serenity – sometimes heavy and sometimes delicate – absorbs the melodies that are placed throughout. Giving July, her first full album in two-and-a-half years, one listen will encapsulate you in a life-affirming cocoon.
That “dense mist” may come with the producer that aided her – Randall Dunn (previously worked with Sunn O))), Earth, and Wolves In The Throne Room). Although her folky tales of fluctuating emotional levels haven’t grown immensely dark like Dunn’s previous clients, Nadler’s newest tracks certainly have a darker tinge to them than before. It may have to do with the riveting string work that adds so much more to July. Certain tracks have a black hole strength of pulling you in, and the string work only adds more gravitas. Getting sucked into this may play with your emotions a little, but it’s wildy worth it.
Marissa Nadler’s “Dead City Emily”
But it’s not the haze or the string work that makes July completely worth listening to – it’s also Marissa’s performances with her plucky guitar work and commanding vocals that prove this album’s worth. Lead single “Dead City Emily” solemnly catches you with its cavernous guitar lead and once the vocal melody kicks in, you’re swept away by her beautiful range. It’s these certain characteristics that are cluttered, scattered, and strewn all across July, but are portrayed the best on “Dead City Emily.” Another highlight is “Anyone Else,” where Nadler regrets wasting her time on the subject – “All the years held you close / You should’ve been anyone else, I know.”
Nadler walks down a troubling forest with these songs, contemplating her past and chiming on the what-if’s, but July masters the art of channeling. Nadler’s deep, dark mysticism is what keeps the entire album afloat and worthwhile. It’s certainly not as inventive as the next dark folk album, but it is certainly exquisite and ideal. It travels into your soul and unnervingly attaches itself like a tumor. It’s a tumor you never want to remove, just one that sticks out in times of introspection and retrospection. Plain and simple, Marissa Nadler’s July manages to revitalize a career with purity and serenity.
It’s the album’s centerpiece that is the apex and the beacon of artistry that Nadler ekes out through this piece. “Was It A Dream” reaches out from the start and holds your hand, grasping tightly and reassuringly never letting go. Nadler’s vocal is beautiful and heartbreaking, especially in the refrain. The guitar work romanticizes the vocal perfectly, the strings accompany perfectly – it all comes together and washes away all boundaries, tightly packing together a truly remarkable journey encapsulated in four minutes or a moment in life. But this moment surely isn’t a dream. It’s not something sinister, either. It’s simply breathtaking.
Written by Dylan Tracy
OurVinyl | Contributor