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. Take a listen. We asked Marissa about the song and she gave us an excellent, thorough response. We ran an excerpt in the ‘Gum Drop, but you can read the entire analysis here:
STEREOGUM: How did you come up with a “River Of Dirt” as the central image in this song? It’s interesting because it feels like both a place we return to when we die, a space of innocence, a utopia (where a certain love existed), and also an escape from the houses with sharp stairs, etc. Can you explain it some? How can we get back to it? Do we have to wait until we expire/run out of time?
MARISSA NADLER: 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.
The beginning does represent this Utopia, where love is all you need to live. My idea of a Utopia in this song to “ride away and get a circus job” is not about a circus job, but just any life to escape to … There is a strong desire to escape the staircases and white walls. But as the song unravels, things change. The Jester/Elf line reveals that both characters in the song are fooling themselves, and that leaves “me” “sad as the bones stocked upon my shelf.”
The irony is that sonically, it’s quite upbeat …. and with Simone’s drumming, I think of it sometimes as my homage to “Girlfriend In A Coma” because I know, I know, it’s really serious. Seriously. Especially, the chorus being so chirpy in delivery, and the lyrics being quite misanthropic. There is a drum-less version that is more like Julee Cruise-y cruising very very slowly in an El Camino.
“Summer is coming and I can’t believe its true, where are you where is she, I’m turning into you.” I think I was losing my mind when I wrote this. Seasons pass, those feelings don’t go away, and there is the desire to return to home. The river of dirt to me is when we finally mentally, spiritually rest.
I grew up off a highway overpass in suburbia with white walls and sharp stairs. No cottage in the woods, no fairy tale story there with some crazy freight train hopping mythology. I have an amazing family full of creativity and love, but the town was full of homogeneity, however. I always felt a desire to get the fuck out of there. The longing to escape was there then, and I don’t think that ever goes away.
Flashback: 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.
In this week’s Drop, we also offered a change to win a Nokia N96 phone valued at $800 One winner takes home the Nokia N96 phone. (It is valued at $800 and will work with any carrier as long as you have a SIM card.) The prize is brought to you by Comes With Music, Nokia’s new service, which allows select phone owners to download all the music they want to their phone for free for a year and then keep it when their year has expired. First, the phone:
There’s more info about the N96 here. Now, Comes With Music specifics:
Customers who buy a Comes With Music device will be able to explore and enjoy a diverse catalog of music of international and local artists with unlimited access to millions of tracks for a year, keeping the music once the year is over and revolutionizing their digital music experience … Comes With Music offers one year of unlimited access to the entire Nokia Music Store catalogue and customers can keep all the music that they have downloaded at the end of the year to continue enjoying their music collection…
Comes With Music will also feature a tremendous selection of independent music, courtesy of deals with The Orchard (NASD: ORCD), Beggars Group, IODA, the Ministry of Sound, PIAS and Pinnacle. These companies join Universal Music Group, Sony BMG Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group in supporting Comes With Music. Nokia has also secured music publishing rights from CELAS on behalf of EMI Music Publishing, GEMA on behalf of Sony/ATV Music Publishing, SACEM on behalf of Universal Music Publishing, as well as the MCPS-PRS Alliance.
The Nokia Music catalog is viewable here. Note: Comes With Music is not yet supported on the N96, but they are expected to add more devices to the service in the upcoming months. The UK is the first market to offer Comes With Music. US sales are planned for 2009. In the meantime, folks can pre-register their orders for Comes With Music devices from Carphone Warehouse. You can get more info about Comes With Music at the official site.
CONTEST ENDS 02/04/09 AT 12PM EST.