The phrase fabulous at forty can most definitely be applied to singer-songwriter Marissa Nadler as she has written, recorded and produced her best work to date on her new album - The Path Of The Clouds. Nadler's ninth solo album, made as the artist turned 40, follows on from her covers album Instead Of Dreaming and her work with Stephen Brodsky on Droneflower but shares more similarities with her last solo album of new material; For My Crimes. At the time, back in 2018, For My Crimes could have been cited as the high point in a career that stretches back nearly twenty years now. Tracks such as All Out Of Catastrophes, Said Goodbye To That Car, I Can't Listen To Gene Clark Anymore and Blue Vapor saw Nadler's songwriting skills reach new and extraordinary heights. Just over three years on from that album Marissa Nadler has once again surpassed herself with an album that is exquisitely crafted and utterly beguiling.
The beauty of Marissa Nadler's latest release comes from it's cohesive atmospherics and superlative performances. Everything on The Path Of The Clouds is so well balanced and so well conceived. There are no jarring moments, just waves of joyous sound, arranged so seamlessly that you lose yourself in the unfolding soundscapes that develop throughout the record.
From the opening bars of Nadler's lead single Bessie Did You Make It through to the sublime close out track Lemon Queen, The Path Of The Clouds holds you transfixed. Whilst Bessie Did You Make It may have peaked your interest and drawn you in, nothing could have lead you to expect that this was just one of 11 stunning and faultless tracks.
The "inverted murder ballad" is just one of the many brilliantly written, narrative songs that Nadler has so expertly composed. If I Could Breathe Under Water, Marissa Nadler's second single - performed with esteemed experimental harpist Mary Lattimore, is no less engaging. The soft and sensual vocals of Nadler coupled with the lightness of the soundtrack give this song a divine feeling of weightlessness. With echoes of Julee Cruise and Angelo Badalementi If I Could Breathe Under Water just floats through the ether like a gossamer veil.
Three weeks prior to the album's release Nadler dropped the third single, Couldn't Have Done The Killing, another understated gem from an album full of shimmering diamonds. Nadler combines her captivating guitar skills with her delightfully textured vocal to deliver up a wonderfully woozy and melodic track. The Path Of The Clouds is not merely defined by it's singles however, it is a fully loaded album without any filler, and because of that there is no need to front load it with the best bits at the beginning.
The Path Of The Clouds is an album that demands your attention and as such is one that should be listened to, uninterrupted, in it's entirety. The title track, a song that references the story of the infamous hijacker D.B. Cooper, has a killer walking bass line and deftly uses minimalist percussive touches to enhance it's epic panorama. Elegy, performed with Black Mountain’s Amber Webber, is just angelic, Well Sometimes You Just Can't Stay grips you with it's tale of Alcatraz escapees and Storm is just a transcendent triumph but it is possibly Nadler's final song that trumps them all.
Lemon Queen, the last track of the 11 on The Path Of The Clouds, is sublime. The layered harmonies, the subtle melodies, the gently plucked guitar and the way that the vocals fit the soundtrack make this song a career defining one for the Boston based singer-songwriter. The Path Of The Clouds would be a fantastic album without Lemon Queen, but with it, it is an essential one. Go buy!
The Path Of The Clouds is released on October 29th via Bella Union Records.