Agitated Atmosphere: Marissa Nadler – July

As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries such as Marissa Nadler.

For a decade, Marissa Nadler has long played the floating chanteuse-in-clam-shell but hardly in sound. Though her bare bones approach has gifted her albums a sheen of mysticism and mystery, it seems unfair to paint her with the waif brush. It’s a strange double life that has made pinning down Nadler’s artistic point of view difficult.

With July, not only has Nadler ended the restlessness of frivolous genre demarcation, she’s created the most complete piece of art in a maturing career. On its surface, July seems to play like any other folk-tinged album, but its combination of  vocal style (akin to Hope Sandoval at her most haunting) and lyrics-as-melody break the spell of some of her less engaging peers.

Memories attach to every song: windswept escapes from the mundane (“Drive”), hopelessness in familiarity (“Dead City Emily”), and love among the ruins (a very Karen Carpenter-esque “Nothing in my Heart”). Yet these fascinations with loss and despair do not equate a sad album. Nadler’s uplifting throughout, using the strength of the material to propel her.

The subject matter may be transparent but a good heart-on-your-sleeve album always leaves the biggest impression. Coupled with friend Angel Olsen’s Burn Your Fire for No Witness, it’ll be easy to find solace amid the turmoil of complicated matters and oblique double meanings. Life is a mountain, not a beach; there’s beauty in such a simple fact. Such as it is throughout July.

Justin Spicer is a freelance journalist whose work can be viewed at his website. You can also find him on Twitter.

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