There’s little doubt that Marnie Stern lives up to her reputation as “the lady who shreds,” but for Marnie, shredding is not enough. After putting out three critically-acclaimed albums, Marnie could have gotten away with putting out another album filled with her richly layered sound, singular frenetic finger tapping and almost philosophical lyrics. However, as anyone who has given her last few albums a good listen can tell, Marnie is not one to stand still. Instead she attacks her musical evolution with full frontal bravado, reveling in musical risk instead of relaxing in the comforts of the known. For Marnie, musical possibility drives her ambition.
Her new album, The Chronicles of Marnia, finds Marnie not only working with a new drummer (Oneida’s Kid Millions), but also passionately subtracting from her normally dense song structures to craft a sound that is both familiar and wholly original. “I always gravitate towards interweaving and a more abrasive sound,” Marnie said about working on the new album. “I was working with Nicholas Vernhes from Rare Book Room Recording in Brooklyn, and he was the producer. He wanted my voice clearer and fewer guitar parts. I tried it because I wanted to try something different.”
Her trademark exuberant guitar work is still present, in fact, absent a few layers of grit, it’s even more evident. “We stripped away a lot of the layers and a lot of unnecessary interweaving guitar parts. There’s less clutter and more of staying on a part without adding too much instrumentation.” Through the subtractive production process, Marnie’s voice became more prominent, a fact that kind of concerns Marnie, “I get worried that I am coming across as someone who thinks they are a ‘singer,’ as opposed to my usual mishmash of voices that aren’t always in key,” she said about the album’s more pronounced vocals. “I grapple with that attitude because I think it's important as a musician to try and be as proficient as possible, or try to put a lot of work into it. I suppose in my own way, I put a ton of time into singing and trying to find interesting melody ideas, I just never think of myself as having a ‘nice’ voice.” It’s an enervating change for an artist who in the past has always skillfully buried her vocals under the guitar and drum tracks.
The musical transformation evident on her new album isn’t entirely unexpected, as fans who have listened to both “For Ash” and “Every Single Line Means Something” in a single sitting know. That same slow progression can be seen between 2010’s self-titled album and the forthcoming The Chronicles of Marnia. Marnie can’t help but laugh when thinking back on her musical evolution. “I'm sure if I went from the first album to this one, I'd have a heart attack. Luckily it's been gradual enough for me to enjoy the changes.” And there’s little doubt that her fans will too. Even as Marnie evolves from what Pitchfork called her “art-metal math-rock bubblegum pop” genre, fans will still find themselves jumping head first into the album and quickly bonding with the emotionally resonant material, cascading hooks and transcendental guitar riffs. Plus, the album shreds. She is Marnie Stern after all.
released 19 March 2013
Recorded at Rare Book Room Studio in Brooklyn, NY by Nicolas Vernhes. Producer: Nicolas Vernhes.
All songs written by Marnie Stern. Year of The Glad, Nothing Is Easy, and Immortals written by Marnie Stern with contributions by Evan Jewett.
Vocals: Marnie Stern, Evan Jewett. Guitar: Marnie Stern, Evan Jewett, Nithin Kalvakota. Keyboard: Evan Jewett. Bass: Nithin Kalvakota. Drums: Kid Millions
It's a special face. With conviction. / Got to make it great. On a mission. The beginning / New finds. New finds and old dreams. / And everything's starting now. /Adios L.A.. Ornamental. I'm not staying / Each is ours to take. On a mission /The beginning / New finds. New finds and old dreams. / And everything's starting now. / What makes it so great? Destination. I'm not staying. / Couldn't make you wait. With permission. The beginning. / ooh you're playing / It's a special face. With conviction. / Got to make it great. On a mission. The beginning
Track Name: You Don't Turn Down
You were standing arms up in the crowd. / Got to get obsessed and stay there now. / I fell. I fell. / Echoes coming down the hallway, Time is up I heard them say. / Old ideas glowing through the doorway, with the fear creeping in, / And I am losing hope in my body. Losing hope in my body / I was getting kind of lonely. In the mirror was no plan. / We went around the world. I didn't sleep. The fear creeping in. / And I am losing hope in my body, Losing hope in my body. / What took you so long, they said out loud. / Got to get obsessed and stay there now. / I fell.
Track Name: Noonan
Free / Listen closely to what's still moving. / The hum that never goes away from me. / Your eyes follow me. / Don't you want to be somebody? /Don't you want to be? Don't you want to be somebody? / They're so deep in me. / Tell the story that you don't love me. / I have nothing to replace my grief. / Your eyes follow me. / Don't you want to be somebody? / Don't you want to be? Don't you want to be somebody? / And you kept on bringing me down
Track Name: Nothing is Easy
There are no coincidences. No one has ever been cooled / Into the impossible. Hey you're gonna need a sledgehammer / To walk in my shoes, when nothing is easy / It's a pretty big mystery. / Better let her marnia / Helter skelter marnia / Hanging out in space, no weight / no substance animating your life / Give the game away, Memories getting paler in the moonlight / -Repeat- / Hanging out in space, no weight / no substance animating your life / Give the game away, Memories getting paler in the moonlight / Nothing is easy
Track Name: Immortals
I'll come and find you / All the gods hang around where you are / Open mouths beg for them, how bizarre. / Oh the strange, it launched a thousand realms of wings / And what's dangerous, it turned to other things. / Forever. Forever. / Immortals don't die / I'll come and find you / All my hero's bold ideas, well they have gone. / Broken up and split into a thousand songs. / Their shapes could make it clearest who I'd want to be / And the dangerous, it turned to other things. / Immortals don't die. / Only I could save her.
Track Name: The Chronicles of Marnia
Bittersweet you've got to go. Got to get my handle on / All the things that make them fall. Like a ton of dominos. / Bitter like the animals, crawling through the winter snow. / I Would think they'd follow you, through the bravest metaphor / Don't you think they'd follow through? Braving through the winter snow. / All before the fight was born. Oh before connected songs. / Someone in your province said, I was meant to be alone. / Would that change your image then? Hologram to metal form. / There's a place that we'll go to when we are older. / There's just one man for me. I can see the goal. / I'm working so damn hard I miss you lover. / I hope you're proud of me / Bittersweet you've got to go. Got to get my handle on / Bitter like the animals, crawling through the winter snow. / Don't you think they'd follow through? Braving through the endless snow. / All before the fight was born. Oh before connecting songs. / Someone in your province said, I was meant to be alone. / Would that change your image then? Hologram to metal form./ There's a place that we'll go to when we are older. / There's just one man for me. I can see the goal. / I'm working so damn hard I miss you lover. / I hope you're proud of me / So don't let me leave now. Dont let me go
Track Name: Still Moving
Nothing ever looked. So damn good / When I saw it through, New York stayed true / Nothing ever looked. So damn good. / And the wind came. And the wind came. / Close your eyes. / Nobody knows when it's gonna be. Nobody knows when it's gonna be. / Close your eyes. / No one ever really understands anybody else's life
Track Name: East Side Glory
Quick and silver paintings. / Everyone is faking. / And the gold rush comes undone / Send me to the ancients. / Where they really changed it. / The plan was to do this forever. Can I still? / Too much hesitation. / Just go out and make it. / Can instinct come and go? / Too much incubation / Everyone is changing. / I dont know why / I can barely hear / saved something for you / Quick and silver paintings. / Everyone is faking. / Can instinct come and go? / I dont know why / I can barely hear / Wonder where I was when I went in the car last night.
Track Name: Proof of Life
All my life is based on fantasy. / And all the gods, they've stopped talking to me. / And I cannot find it. / Give me a sign. / I am nothing. I am no one. / I am running out of energy. / I'm searching but there's so much I can't see. / Give me a sign. / I am nothing. I am no one. / The work is never done. And that is and that is all I have. / And I can't get it right. / All my life, it's based on fantasy. / And all the gods, they've stopped talking to me. /And I cannot find it. / Give me a sign. / I am something. I am someone.
Track Name: Hell Yes
When you mean the most a lot/ And you see you've got a lot / Down and deep I'll never stop. / Won't give this thing. Won't give it up. / C'mon / I've got time, In my hands / I've got time. / All I've got is time / When the missing doesn't stop / Loneliness will cut you up. / Down and deep I'll never stop. / Won't give this thing. Won't give it up. / I've got time in my hands / All I've got is time.