Some artists have such perfectly serene voices that they'd still mesmerize you even if they were singing about hell, damnation, and sex.
Having grew up in the Northeast, Marissa Nadler was influenced by the region's rustic and calming setting. It's no wonder that Nadler's angelic sound is deeply rooted in a more traditional folk ambiance lacking even less than a hint of the contemporary.
Atmosphere and tone are Nadler's musical signatures to which even she isn't adverse to tinkering with: "If a song is good, you should be able to do it in any style and transform it, take a risk and have some fun," (press release).
As the title suggests, her fourth solo album Little Hells is anything but fun. Nadler's tranquil vocals intensify the relentless push for eternal repose and mask the open, yet subtle eeriness that lingers throughout. The opening "Heart Paper Lover" typifies the Boston-based singer-songwriter's ability to freeze time, either bringing you never-ending sunshine or trapping you in an endless cycle of melancholy.
Nadler puts a different spin on that bipolar loop, describing that "the songs take on different personalities at different points in time." Her haunting reverb effectually molds her music into a timeless spin, as in the evocative "Rosary" and the somewhat tragic title track. "Ghosts & Lovers" has a different approach, instead carrying a subdued levelheaded attitude toward inconsequential finality, like watching a single supernova amid an entire universe of stars.
There are a couple of rare uptempo tracks that unsurprisingly don't disturb Nadler's rhythm. The carnival-like "Mary Come Alive" and the outstanding "River Of Dirt" are intermissions from the rain, with the dour transposed with fleeting specks of joviality.
With the exception of the utterly depressing "Loner," much of Little Hells stays within Nadler's balanced realm of steadfast composure, sometimes wavering in the thick gloom and sometimes basking in plain satisfaction. In her dream-folk world, there are plenty of opportunities to experience enough of both for many lifetimes.