Marnie Stern Marnie Stern

Marnie Stern Marnie Stern
No one shreds and harmonizes like Marnie Stern. Hell, no one even shreds like her, period. On her first two albums, the Brooklynite laid down some jaw-droppingly technical axe work with frantic melodies that produced adrenalizing results. But if there was one chink in her metallic armour, it was that her songs were often lost in the instrumental blizzard. For album number three, Stern put as much focus on honing her songwriting chops as she did her guitar work, which is evident right out of the gates with the manic "For Ash." Once again, Hella's Zach Hill is a beast of a time-keeper, filling in the holes with his unreal pounding; in many ways, he seems like the only one who could complement Stern's fret-tapping prowess. It's not all so frenetic: "Transparency is the New Mystery" follows a traditional pop song structure, delivering her strongest sense of melody yet, and "The Things You Notice" is a soft solo joint built upon warm, humming guitar layers. What's most clear, however, in both respects, is the production, which allows it all to sound glorious and vivid, like she's releasing rainbows with each note shred. If there's one flaw, it's the deflating self-title of the album, a sign of verbal exhaustion that's no doubt the result of using 31 words to name her previous work. But that's about it. (Kill Rock Stars)