The Lowdown: On her eighth album in 14 years, Marissa Nadler stuns with a brief collection of bold folk songs that exudes the best writing of her career. Working with producer Lawrence Rothman, Nadler eschews the sprawling arrangements of her last couple albums in favor of a more direct approach to her storytelling, full of intimate details that linger long after the music stops. Contributions from Angel Olsen, Sharon Van Etten, Kristin Kontrol, and Mary Lattimore help flesh out the immersive tales Nadler portrays.
The Good: Nadler excels throughout the record in crafting stories from multiple points of view, like the remorseful killer on death row in “For My Crimes” and the scorned lover plotting an escape in “All Out of Catastrophes”. Accompanying these are songs about moments so personal you can’t help but relate, whether bemoaning the fact that she can no longer listen to a favorite singer after the relationship associated with his songs went south on “I Can’t Listen to Gene Clark Anymore” or the way she makes a refrain out of the exact mileage on her car when it broke down on “Said Goodbye to That Car”. Along with the sinister undertones that color songs like “Flamethrower” and the haunting “You’re Only Harmless When You Sleep”, Nadler has crafted a remarkably well-rounded collection of songs.
The Bad: The album is pared-down and tightly focused, her shortest since 2012’s The Sister. By moving away from the lush, ornate backdrops that enveloped her music on 2016’s Strangers, Nadler keeps the focus on her wondrous melodies and rich poetry. The focus on lyrics over atmosphere largely works, but allows for less variety, lacking some of the resounding expansiveness of her earlier work.
The Verdict: The latest in a long career of consistently stellar records, For My Crimes is a shining example of how Nadler continues to impress and improve upon each release. By putting the focus on her expressive characterization, she moves beyond the forlorn goth label that always seemed to accompany her work. With moments of anger and joy, Nadler portrays much more than a wistful sorrow, revealing the many dimensions of her sound. Though compact, For My Crimes is far from slight and marks another welcome addition into what’s become one of the best runs of the 2010s.
Essential Songs: “I Can’t Listen to Gene Clark Anymore”, “Blue Vapor”, and “Said Goodbye to That Car”