Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “Drive” by Marissa Nadler from the 2014 album July on Sacred Bones.
It might be easy to take Marissa Nadler for granted, either because her catalog is so consistent or her rate or output has been so dependable (or both), but that only emphasizes the richness of her otherworldly mixture of American folk and gothic dream pop. Nadler was raised in Massachusetts, and although she grew up (and remains) an avid painter, she also had an interest in music, which eventually led to the release of her first album, 2004’s Ballads of Living and Dying. Since then, Nadler has released an additional five albums in ten years’ time, expanding her reach to include more expansive arrangements and dipping her toes in country (2011’s Marissa Nadler) and black metal (performing backing vocals on Xasthur’s final album Portal of Sorrow). Recorded at Seattle’s Avast Studios and produced by Randall Dunn (Sunn O))), Wolves in the Throne Room), July retains all of the trademarks of Nadler’s career to date, but her presence and songwriting feels more both more ghastly and more consuming.
Before July‘s production, Nadler had walked away from music, but a chance viewing of an old email prompted her to come back haunted. Her voice more spectral, her guitar more earthly resonant, and her songwriting more engrossing than ever before. “Drive” serves as July‘s thesis statement. But her characteristically stark imagery (“Waiting for the light…nothing like the way it feels to drive”) now takes place on a lost highway rather than in the graveyards and woods of her past work. But her change of setting is only part of the equation that makes “Drive” such a triumphant return. Nadler hasn’t sounded this devastating since 2009’s Little Hells, and in a landscape where folk music seems overrun with foot-stomping, festival-baiting anthems, it’s good to know that folk tradition can still be configured to affect a listener with stunning craftsmanship in the place of pure volume.
She played Seattle last month, but Marissa has a slew of North American and European dates booked for the rest of the year, so head over to her website and Facebook to see photos and updates from her tour. Below, watch Marissa play “Drive” from her most recent visit to KEXP in February.