Marissa Nadler, ‘Marissa Nadler’ (Box of Cedar)
This New England painter turned songstress has distinguished herself from other neo-folkies with dark gothic imagery and hypnotic, reverbed arrangements, but the refined results often have felt too coolly distant. Nadler’s fifth album benefits from a newfound directness. Over acoustic fingerpicking, splashing cymbals, and languidly twanging steel guitar, Nadler inhabits her strongest set of songs yet, pining in a barely adorned soprano for both lost loves and a conjoined twin (“Daisy, Where Did You Go?”). Despite casting herself as an “Alabaster Queen,” Nadler exudes vitality.