MARISSA NADLER, SHANA CLEVELAND
There's a quote from John Updike that weighs more heavily on me the older I get: "What you haven't done by 30, you're not likely to do. What you have done, you'll do lots more." Marissa Nadler, at age 32, shares a similar sentiment about the touring indie-rock musician who's looking out at a sparse and disinterested crowd during her umpteenth show: "If you ain't made it now, you're never gonna make it/Seventeen people in the dark tonight/You see some familiar faces behind the cellular lights." Thus begins her new album, July, which documents a year of being on the road and slowly falling out of love with someone. Nadler sings in the past tense about this year in her life with a quiet, clinical, and powerful honesty, portraying the painful resignation of reaching (something close to) clarity about a former destructive relationship. With her dreamy melodies and acoustic guitar-based music, it might be easy to call Nadler a haunting or ethereal folk singer, but that would be missing the point. Her guitar playing is more in the plaintive and resonant style of Elliott Smith (an acoustic musician who detested the folkie tag), and her voice recalls the somber cadence of older, tearful female country musicians who once sang about standing by your man. July was recorded in Seattle with local producer Randall Dunn, who is known for his work with drone-metal bands like Sunn O))) and Earth, and he's helped to create the chilling atmosphere that hangs over Nadler's stark lyrical remembrances.
If you believe that Valentine's Day is a gushy or overtly commoditized celebration of love, Marissa Nadler arrives just in time for thinking about something deeper, about putting past loves to rest and coming out stronger for it. She might be singing about one of the better parts of growing up.
Does Shana Cleveland even need an introduction? Lately she's been making waves with the rollicking group La Luz, but she opens tonight's concert with a solo performance. Consider it a good time to get reacquainted with her quiet-time acoustic crooning. Fremont Abbey, 8 pm, $10–$16.