The Path of the Clouds by Marissa Nadler album review by Greg Walker. Her full-length is out today via Sacred Bones and streaming services

Sacred Bones/Bella Union

9

Marissa Nadler

The Path of the Clouds

With an artist like Marissa Nadler, Massachusetts’ gothic folk queen who is 9 albums in, the real feat is that her brilliantly constructed, chilling lyrics are only bettered by her brilliantly arranged, chilling songs. She has been referred to as a “literary” songwriter, and that story telling acumen is all over her latest album, The Path Of The Clouds–whether it’s songs about an escape from Alcatraz or the story of disappeared plane hijacker, D.B. Cooper. “We were bleeding / from the start / No tourniquet / could make it stop,” she sings on the spooky-beautiful song, “Elegy.” She bleeds her soul into these songs, with a sense for the macabre, seemingly asking to what depths a heart can break.

“Did you drown in the ocean / or make your great escape?” she sings on the song, “Well Sometimes You Just Can’t Stay,” a song fit for a Bond film, with its slow plod and deep thrilling feeling. It is the big question on this album, can we somehow escape the heaviness, the violence intrinsic in this ill-fated life? “Everyone’s got their skeletons / set to attack.” We all know this. Nadler is just able to distill that feeling into a song, perfect for the pain and ache we feel in life’s losses and complications and tragedies.

This is Nadler’s second album in half a year’s time. In that way, the pandemic has been good to her, a woman who spends most of her time on the road. She released a covers album, Instead Of Dreaming, in May of this year with covers ranging from Bob Dylan to Metallica. It was a beautiful stripped down album, but it is in her album creations where she truly shines. Where she is able to craft her own dusky stories and soundscapes.

Like she sings about a number of times on the record, she is a “shapeshifter,” able to take on the darkest feelings and breathe her ghostly voice into them, so that you’re transported, “shapeshifted” with her. She said that she was inspired in this record by watching episodes of the old Unsolved Mysteries television show, said that she could relate the show’s material to her own life in uncanny ways. Many people, women in particular, are caught up in murder mysteries, perhaps because of the well of empathy that lies in the feminine spirit.

It takes a sort of innocence to see the horror in taking another person’s life or fighting for your life against a killer, the tragedy of a break up or a runaway. After an album of deep darkness, the album ends with a bit of light. “Seasons changed the color / and the lemon queen it grew / taller and taller / over you.” Perhaps it takes tragedy to see life’s true beauty, perhaps it takes a broken heart to know how to love, darkness to see the light for light. Her ability to tap into the most chilling parts of the heart is her greatest strength, giving those who’ve experienced grief a soundtrack, and those who are chained for whatever reason, a willing companion, until they’re finally free.

“Sometimes I hear your voice / and I dream of running / to you, to you, to you, to you.” For years, Nadler has been the one to run to. Perhaps this wonderful album will broaden her life-saving reach.

Order The Path of the Clouds by Marissa Nadler HERE