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Chronicles Of Marnie

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Marnie Stern

Chronicles Of Marnie

12" LP

Availability: In stock


Quick Overview

Having established herself as one of indie rock's premier shredders, Marnie Stern returns with an emphasis on songcraft on her rhapsodic fourth album, The Chronicles of Marnia. While Stern still delights in plenty of the lightning-fast guitar heroics with which she's made a name for herself, the album feels like a more open and exploratory affair. Part of this can be attributed to a change in personnel, with Hella and Death Grips drummer Zach Hill being replaced by Oneida's Kid Millions, providing a looser, more fluid contrast to Hill's technical wizardry. With this less tightly wound rhythm section behind her, the songs here seem to open up into rousing rock & roll mini-celebrations rather than musical endurance tests. This shift gives The Chronicles of Marnia a new dimension of accessibility without sacrificing too much of its complexity. Rather than feeling like Stern isn't putting in the effort, though, it's more fair to say that at this point she's not as concerned with trying so hard to impress us, instead floating from song to song with a breezy effortlessness that showcases a confident songwriter who isn't afraid to let the hooks do some of the heavy lifting this time around. That said, anyone expecting this to be yet another twisting sonic puzzle might be a little disappointed by the more direct approach here, but like Stern's other albums, The Chronicles of Marnia is an album that demands multiple journeys through the wardrobe, only this time it's to fully take in the album's melodic depths rather than to make sense of its technical achievements.


On Marnie Stern’s fourth album, her guitar playing is as grand as her self-doubt. Yet The Chronicles of Marnia is Stern’s most buoyant work, complete with a mission statement that bucks her precious trend: “Immortals don’t die.” At 37, the Upper East Side guitar virtuoso is in her ‘not a girl, not yet a veteran of the alt-rock sphere’ stage. Flanked by a new producer with a flair for minimalism, Nicolas Vernhes (Wild Nothing, LIGHTS) and drummer Kid Millions of Oneida, Stern peeled off the layers that cushioned her previous works, like 2010’s Marnie Stern. That album juxtaposed euphoria with tragedy, notably her ex-boyfriend’s suicide (“For Ash”). Chronicles, the follow-up, develops that contrast of musical highs and lyrical lows. But this time, her tragedy is her own creativity. The album kicks off with “The Year of the Glad”, an effervescent celebration of something. Vowel sounds! David Foster Wallace! Anything! Depending on your personal philosophy, the title is either the first line or the last line of Infinite Jest, a book so long and challenging it’s regarded as an accomplishment just to own it (Stern admitted she didn’t get past page three). “Glad” is joyous and emphatic: what Muse might sound like if they inhaled a tank of helium gas. But the best part of a song that declares “Everything starts now” is that Stern feels as though everything could end at any moment. Or worse, that she’s already lost everything and what the hell is she even doing here? Stern is Morrissey’s “This Charming Man” come to life: playful, lilting, and hilariously hermetic. From the freewheeling “Noonan” to the manic-as-Kathleen-Hanna “You Don’t Turn Down”, Stern plays dangerously fast over her sky-high quiver. Her finger-tapping technique, where both hands are placed on the fret board, allows her to reach those Paganini-speeds (the 19th century violinist was one of the original finger-tappers long before Eddie Van Halen.) Playing fast used to suggest you made some Faustian pact: you partook in lascivious affairs, you owned a Corvette. But Stern conflates velocity with the sexy topics of work (“work is never done”), working (“I’m working so damn hard”), and metaphors for working (“Don’t need a sledgehammer to walk in my shoes”). In the ’70s, AC/DC sold the dream of rock n’ roll as work to millions: “Under-paid, gettin’ sold, second-hand / That’s how it goes playin’ in a band.” According to the Bon Scott School Of Thought, those who rocked hard received something called a ‘soul stripper.’ Stern’s soul sounds stripped. Her theory of work is less linear, more like C.S. Lewis’ labyrinthine wardrobe, with inner lions and witches to battle (though she may be looking to switch to the Bon Scott School based on her “Win A Date With Marnie Stern” Twitter contest). Vulnerability has many surprising tones on this album, like the rambunctious repetition of “I’m losing my body” to Stern’s nasal siren noises that signal an emergency of her own design. When she softly intimates “I am nothing / I am no one” on “Proof of Life”, it’s a chilling manifesto coming from the empowering stage presence, worthy of all those “Thunderstruck”-style guitar highs, like the one on “Nothing is Easy”. Mostly, Stern worries whether her unorthodox life trajectory has weathered her mind and body in vain. However, her diffidence may be rooted in the restlessness of advancing her career — and feeling the weight of the possibilities. Resolve comes to her on “Hell Yes”, the closing track and, which fittingly features a stark guitar solo. It recalls the exaltation of “The Year of the Glad”, finding the Wallace-style loop of living in the joy of limitless limitation. Chin up, Marnie. As Van Halen once foretold: Only time will tell if we stand the test of time.

Additional Information

Artist Marnie Stern
Track Listing Year Of The Glad 3:40 You Don't Turn Down 3:11 Noonan 3:04 Nothing Is Easy 3:49 Immortals 2:54 The Chronicles Of Marnia 3:10 Still Moving 3:07 East Side Glory 2:55 Proof Of Life 3:43 Hell Yes 3:18

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