21 Mar 2013
Review | Marnie Stern
Marnie Stern, The Chronicles of Marnia, Kill Rock Stars
Marnie Stern is on a mission, and she is charging towards her goal like a runaway train. We meet the singer opening her fourth studio album with ‘Year of the Glad’, which features her making ape sounds to a backdrop of orchestral pop that would make the likes of Kishi Bashi and Mates of State proud.
On ‘You Don’t Turn Down’, Stern goes down a breakneck spiral sneaky guitar lick spiral, so anachronistically inventive that it seems as if Stern has ridden back in time from the year 2704 to write a master’s thesis on The Art of Guitar Shredding based on close examination of 1970s super group Cheap Trick. Lamenting sinking energy levels (in this writer’s opinion, it’s hard to imagine Marnie Stern ever lacking energy), she laments “losing hope in my body/losing hope in my body” in hiccupy jumps that prove a brief nod to her musical inspirationals, Sleater-Kinney, whose legacy she proudly carries. Tracks such as ‘Noonan’, wherein Stern asks: “don’t you want to be somebody?” the uptempo rhythm is laced with sadness as the lyrics circle around the theme of desperately attempting to be known and justified. ‘Nothing Is Easy’ is a straight-up rock-n-roll classic. It’s one of those songs that just comes along and makes you wonder why this song hasn’t always existed in your life.
Chronicles of Marnia is a joyful celebration of life as well as an anxiety-laden rumination on how the decisions made at every step along the way can become the fate that traps you in. The joy and anxiety can be felt in equal parts, but when they are felt, they have a tendency to dominate and overwhelm. The high energy pace can be a bit exhaustive. There is a tendency for tracks to bleed over into other tracks without much in the way of variety (granted, what is offered is sugar high addictive, it still stays more or less on the same wavelength).
With songs that go so fast they seem to bleed into one another, and in a rare situation I’ve never really experienced before with most music, the strength of the songs actually steal attention away from one another! There are things that can only be handled in small doses, and discovering the dizzyingly intoxicating galaxy of Marnie Stern might best be done via listening to her songs balanced out over the course of an extended mixed-tape (or what the kids these days’re callin’ “playlist”) with some breathing room songs keeping her buzzing hyperactivity from spinning off into outer space.