Marissa Nadler’s fourth album Little Hells is out 3/3 on Kemado. It’s her best, most expansive collection to date, mixing her pristine vocals, guitars, and Wurlitzer with a full band that includes Blonde Redhead drummer Simone Pace, multi-instrumentalist Myles Baer (Black Hole Infinity), and Farmer Dave Scher on lapsteel, synths, and piano. You’ll get an idea of the expanded palette via “River Of Dirt,” which debuts in this week’s Drop. We asked Marissa about the song.
How did you come up with a “River Of Dirt” as the central image in this song?
The imagery for the song was written stream of consciousness. It was the first song that I wrote when beginning to write Little Hells. To be honest, I wrote the song with a bottle of wine, sitting on my floor, and I had the melody that just wouldn’t go away. I had the picking going and this droning guitar piece, and then the words arrived. I tried to just let them flow, without being intentional and without censoring any of the thoughts that were coming into my head. The meaning did not clearly present itself until months later. I knew it was more autobiographical, which was a goal for the record. It grew spinning like a wagon wheel, because of the jumping around of time and place. El Camino is a car I always dreamt of having, because I think they are sexy cars. But el Camino also means the road, or the path.
In the beginning of the song, there is a desire to return home, but to a home that doesn’t exist. Words of a desire to revisit a lost place linger. There is an idealized sense in the first stanza that the protagonist, or “I”, would run away with my first love and live this utterly romanticized version of a life together, birds chirping and all, like some freaking children’s book. That doesn’t happen in the song, didn’t happen in real life, and very rarely does. I have stopped romanticizing that fairy tale happy ending that we are force fed in movies and books in our childhood, and the song slowly enters my interpretation of reality by each stanza. I still believe in love, am on the wagon and all, but that is not what the song is about.
To learn what “River Of Dirt” is about, read the rest of Marissa’s explanation on Stereogum later today. Also, as far as flashbacks, Marissa was one of the first ‘Gum Droppers when we started the newsletter 71 weeks ago via “The Whole Is Wide,” which appears on Little Hells in fleshier piano form.