Terms like "spare" or "minimalist" have usually been the go-to adjectives for the music of New York-based performing songwriter Nina Nastasia -- and for good reason. Over the course of five albums in ten years, Nastasia has created stripped miniatures of stark neo-folk with hints of alt-country to a growing legion of supportive critical acclaim. But where her earlier works, including 2007's inspired You Follow Me with Dirty Three drummer Jim White, could be viewed as small screen black and white vignettes, Nastasia's new Outlaster (June 22, Fat Cat) is a luxurious canvas filled with bold strokes of color and texture. The voice, still achingly tender, is unmistakable. But the arrangements are steeped in lushly orchestrated strings offering tension pulled taut: sweeping, sometimes angular and dissonant underpinnings that add a dark theatricality to her lyrics.
To realize her ambitious strategy, Nastasia worked with arranger Paul Bryan and various string and reed quartets, drummer Jay Bellerose and Tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker to not only flesh out her songs but to present them in a whole new transcendent and dramatic light. Ranging from gypsy folk to swooping Weill-ian cabaret to Nick Drake-styled chamber pop, tracks such as the omenous "You're A Holy Man", mournful lead track "Cry, Cry, Baby" and razor-sharp tango "This Familiar Way" deliver a rush of head-shaking chills. Outlaster is a work of breathtaking originality and execution. There are those that truly create and those that simply imitate -- you'll know the difference immediately here. Highly recommended.
Nina Nastasia - "You Can Take Your Time" (from the album Outlaster)
Nina Nastasia - "This Familiar Way" (from the album Outlaster)
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