Songwriters: Marissa Nadler
The Path of the Clouds, Marissa Nadler’s ninth solo album, is the most stylistically adventurous, lyrically transfixing, and melodically sophisticated collection of songs in her already rich discography. Gripped by wanderlust while suddenly housebound at the start of the pandemic in 2020, Nadler escaped into writing, and came back with a stunning set of songs about metamorphosis, love, mysticism, and murder. Blurring the line between reality and fantasy and moving freely between past and present, these 11 deeply personal, self-produced songs find Nadler exploring new landscapes, both sonic and emotional.
One of Nadler’s distractions during the 2020 quarantine was binging reruns of Unsolved Mysteries. As she watched, she began to notice parallels between many of its stories and her own life. What began as a writing exercise became the bedrock of her songwriting process, as she came to inhabit the narratives that had so fascinated her. In “Bessie, Did You Make It?,” Nadler inverts the canon of the murder ballad, crafting a narrative of female empowerment and survival. “The Path of the Clouds” tells the story of the infamous hijacker D.B. Cooper, but the song isn’t just about jumping out of an airplane, faking your death, and making a grand exit. It’s a meditation on perseverance and transformation, a salute to mastering one’s fate. “Well, Sometimes You Just Can’t Stay” details the ingenious plans of the only successful escapees from Alcatraz, as well as the lingering enigma that surrounds their history. The lyrical twist on the chorus turns a tale about a prison break into a humorous, shoegazing country song.
While she’s always been a brilliant guitarist, Nadler challenged herself to expand her palette for The Path of the Clouds, experimenting with synthetic textures that make the album feel untethered from time and space. A majestic grandeur sweeps through songs such as “Elegy,” shooting the listener into the stratosphere as synths swirl and entwine with Nadler’s celestial mezzo-soprano. Nadler also learned to play piano during the pandemic’s isolation, and she composed many of the songs on the album on keys rather than guitar, which further contributed to their exploratory feel. These songs are unmistakably Marissa Nadler’s, but they sound free to go places she’s never gone before.
As a songwriter, Nadler is as direct and urgent as she has ever been. There’s no coded language amid the bleak lows and exalted highs of songs like “Elegy,” “Lemon Queen,” “Storm,” and “Tried Not to Look Back.” Memories are painted with highly detailed imagery, and Nadler, also a visual artist, uses that eye not only to tell a story but to transport the listener there.
The Path of the Clouds showcases the power of an artist at the peak of her powers nearly 20 years into an acclaimed career as a songwriter and singer. Coming a long way from the spare dream folk of her earlier work, she has remained inspired and continues to evolve, open to new ideas and directions. The proof is right here, in Nadler’s most ambitious and complex album yet.
Marissa Nadler "Skyscraper" in The Dinner film
Marissa Nadler "Strangers" in Designated Survivor (ABC)
Marissa Nadler + Karen Dalton "So Long Ago & Far Away" in Trash Fire film
Marissa Nadler "Rosary" in Trash Fire film
Marissa Nadler "I’ve Got Your Name" in UnREAL (Lifetime)
Marissa Nadler "Nothing Feels The Same" in UnREAL (Hulu)
Marissa Nadler "Drive" in Free People "Surf" ad
Marissa Nadler "All Love Must Die" in Christmas, Again film
Marissa Nadler "All Out Of Catastrophes" in Good Girls (NBC)