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Album Picks: Marissa Nadler, Methyl Ethel

Posted by Billy Gil, May 20, 2016 08:53am | Post a Comment

Marissa NadlerStrangers

Marissa Nadler’s latest is one of her best yet, adding a little warmth to her haunting rendition of goth-Americana. Whether she’s playing vague with evocative line, as in “Divers of the Dust” (“the waves were screaming/city streets/you look out the window to see/seven lines of stunted trees”), or singing directly, as in “Katie I Know” (“it’s hard to know when to let go/cause I can bury this heart of mine”), Nadler’s words and voice cut deep. Musically, Strangers is a blend of old and new sounds, but the mixture works. “Hungry Is the Ghost” effuses spectral beauty, with slowcore guitars and swelling cosmic sounds, balancing out a song like “Skyscraper,” which is full of spare acoustics and medieval flutes. Though the feel is wintry as per her usual style, “All the Colours of the Dark” is actually one of the sweetest sounding songs Nadler has put to tape, full of genteel fingerpicking, Southern sounding strings and layered organ and piano. Wading through the album’s melancholia, which is pleasurable in its own way, it gives way to the sighing steel guitars of the title track, as well as perhaps her best song yet, “Janie in Love,” in which her swooping, birdsong voice calls out in shudder-inducing beauty, “you’re a natural disaster, and I am watching you blow up everything, you touch and the earth will crumble.” Though bleak, Nadler’s previous albums have never been short of stunning. This time, the music offers not just commiseration but light at the end of the tunnel.

 

Methyl Ethel - Oh Inhuman Spectacle

Perth’s Methyl Ethel craft a wonderful psych-pop debut that strikes a perfect balance. It’s catchy without being cloying, eccentric without being strange for the sake of it. On songs like opener “Idée Fixe,” contrary to the song’s name, Methyl Ethel play fast and loose with the definition of their sound, coming off like a mellowed out cousin of Down Under compatriots Unknown Mortal Orchestra. “Shadowboxing’s” dense blanket of dizzying synths and washy guitars give way to lovely verses with surrealist lyrics about nocturnal love. Best of all is single “Twilight Driving,” with mystical melodies and an indelibly catchy chorus that warps ’70s soft rock through a Kinks-inspired psych lens. It’s true they’re not the most original band — Oh Inhuman Spectacle doesn’t just sound like The ShinsOh, Inverted World in name, and “Unbalancing Acts’” layered vocals hue awfully close to Animal Collective, though the Byrdsy chiming guitars that show up add an unexpected element. But truthfully, Methyl Ethel do everything so well and so charmingly, you won’t mind any sonic borrowing. Oh Inhuman Spectacle is as likable a debut as you’ll hear this year.

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Marissa Nadler (7), New Releases (214), New Albums (213), Album Picks (146), Methyl Ethel (3)