Marnie Stern spent three albums swimming in a series of increasingly technical guitar work, driven by Zach Hill both behind the set and in production lead. With Zach Hill in a fervent percussive tantrum, Marnie Stern’s earlier work comes off as a sounding like a cacophony of delightful and whimsical noise pop, scatological in its addictive hooks and sinfully catchy without sacrificing an aurally verbose technical proficiency.
Her recent work, culminates in a trance like state, a sort of lingering speedy dream that is alluring in it’s soundscape and ultimately locked arm and arm in fleeting harmonies and calmer percussive arrangements. Gone is the genius of Zach Hill, replaced with Kid Millions somewhat reserved style; which is surprising considering his origins. Its not necessarily a detraction on the case of Marnie Stern’s “Chronicles of Marnie Stern” but it’s a noticeable loss.
But the brilliant anxiety of her first three works is gone. And that’s great right? Well, absolutely! But no matter how outstanding it is, it is different. Here’s a track by track breakdown.
Year of the Glad– has a childlike glee, a sort of start-stop crescendo with her signature guitar tapping techniques; creating a staccato melody against a backdrop of howls and “ooing”. Basically Beach Boys go punk on a bender.
You Don’t Turn Down- is a subdued animal, poised to gnash it’s sonic teeth at any moment, but before anything big happens Marnie’s dream chants and light echos lull you into a sense of false security. And it dips right back into a soaring guitar verse. It’s not a lightweight but it perfectly balances the new theme of the album with some of Marnie’s previous posturing.
Noonan- is a radical departure and sounds dear god, almost as if you could hear it on the radio. Noonan is so sugary sweet, I swear it could be on a Pixar soundtrack. Note: Not a backhanded compliment, it’s a damn fine tune.
Nothing is Easy- is one of the first tracks that really just feels hollow. And the empty percussive tracks painfully show here. What would have been a relatively engaging offering ends up vacant because of a distinct lack of drive.
Immortals– Now this is classic Marnie Stern. Panicked in sweet bliss completely shredding away and tapping with the fever of a thousand subdued stars. A stand out track that gracefully falls into it’s chorus with a plummet and dazzlingly spreads it’s wings. This is a great track with a huge expanse that shows Marnie’s guitar wizardry.
The Chronicles of Marnia– This titular show stopper is an exercise in deliberate control and carefully focused measure. Probably a great example of how Marnie Stern’s recent shift in sound has evolved. Some brilliant lyrics on this one.
Still Moving– Too much ambivalent energy on this track messes with the pace that the last six tracks had maintained, but there’s glimmers of gold and synergy between Marnie’s vocals and her matched guitar.
East Side Glory– Starting out like a Yeah Yeah Yeah’s counter melody, and quickly evolving into an utterly brilliant and passionate aural dissertation on pure indie noise pop at 1:10, this track gleaned the most listens. It’s addictive, beautiful, and a song that has profoundly stark imagery.
Proof of Life- Yeah. That’s what it is. Pretty much proof of life. If you listen to this song and it doesn’t provoke something, stir something, man, I just don’t know. The actual song is a dreamlike tapestry of Marnie’s signature fast tapping married with a delicate piano carefully transitioning into reckless abandonment with a declaration of “I am nothing, I am no one.”
Spoiler: It ends on an uplifting note. this is a battle anthem against life’s woes itself.
Hell Yes– Without even missing any strides this song proves a successful closer for the album itself, winding down into warmer and faster verses before exploding in the chorus in typical Marnie fashion .
The Chronicles of Marnia offers something all-together triumphant and exposed for fans of Marnie Stern. Although there is a wildly different pace and underlying calmness behind the blistering wall of sound, The Chronicles of Marnia is a mature and epic work for thirty wondrous minutes.