Posted on December 17th, 2014 (3:00 pm) by Heather Milkiewicz

Marissa Nadler showcases more of her deep and introspective side on her newest EP, Before July: Demos and Unreleased Songs. This EP is a welcome addition to the haunting mastery exhibited in her most recent album, July.

Nadler’s voice has been described by critics as "a voice you would follow straight into Hades." July marked Nadler’s sixth full length album, and was also classified as her most dark in nature. In a recent interview, Nadler describes the shift from the somber, but softer and more imaginative elements found in previous albums, to deeply personal accounts. “I think when I was younger I wanted to create this mythology to escape this reality I was in. And now I want to write real songs that people can relate to, so things have changed.” This EP, which contains songs that are a prelude to July, carries that weight. It is heavy, yet deeply entrancing, bringing a whole new meaning to drowning in your sorrows.

The EP is made up of one cover, two unreleased demos, and two demos of previously released songs from July. The first track, a cover of Elliott Smith’s Pitseleh, sets the tone of reflective sadness that hits straight to the core. Her version of the song is slower, with a more wistful tone, as compared to the faster beat and angrier intention that is set in the original. There is the slow strumming of the guitar throughout, accompanied by keyboard elements that give the song a deeper, and somewhat dreamlike quality. The vocals and the feel of the track bring to mind Sharon Van Etten on Tramp, such as “All I Can”, or Cat Power on Are You Free.

TheEP's two demos of previously released songs include “Dead City Emily-Demo” and “1923-Demo.” “Dead City Emily” is such a standout, hauntingly beautiful melody, with Nadler’s voice front and center, cutting right to the core of the first album. It feels sleek and smooth, as if moving into another realm. The demo version feels, not only less polished, but the instrumentation of the guitar accompaniment is much less sorrowful and plays up in a way that detracts the force and intention of the vocals. This version gives off the vibe of a singer-songwriter in a cafe, or alone in a small studio, as opposed to the more grandiose expression in the original version. In contrast, there is something about the demo version of “1923” that the original seems to be lacking. Here, the slower and more calculated instrumentation brings you in closer to the artist’s expression when the vocals finally come in, whereas you feel much farther away in the original. Again, there is a real essence of Sharon Van Etten here, whose work brings you so close to the emotion being felt by the singer herself, giving the track that much more power.

“Leave the Light On-Demo” is one of the two previously unreleased tracks. While this track is still in keeping with the sorrowful attitude, it takes on much more of an intimate and gritty character than her previous work. One can almost imagine this track as a glimpse into a closed conversation, and as part of her actual life. This gives way to the intention that Nadler hoped to cultivate on the previous album, in terms of bringing more of her authentic self and feelings into her work. Similarly, “The Rose City-Demo” reveals another side of Nadler that has some elements of a tempered Lana Del Ray on Born to Die. The vocals here are sweetly presented in a self-assured, but similarly vulnerable manner, that gives extra allure to the track.

Before July: Demos and Unreleased Songs gives us even more of Nadler’s authentic self incorporated into her artistic work. It is a peek onto the drawing board from which her most recent album was derived, as well as a look into the deep crevices of her mind and heart in a new, raw and refreshing way.

Track List:

  1. Pitseleh
  2. Dead City Emily-Demo
  3. 1923-Demo
  4. Leave the Light On-Demo
  5. The Rose City-Demo
Marissa Nadler - Before July: Demos and Unreleased Songs EP Review
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