Nina Nastasia The Blackened Air

Nina Nastasia seems to inhabit a world of dark snapshots and escaping dreams. The songs that fill The Blackened Air are gorgeous and sinister, floating past so inconspicuously that you're almost unaware of the stories left behind. And often they are tiny little slips of songs - fully half of them shy of the two minute mark (Andy Magoffin would be proud). From howling flames to warm bellies and empty sheds, she gestures to a fevered imagination, with an effortlessly clear voice that hovers just on the edge of too pretty. At times you might hear young Joni Mitchell, but Nastasia's bleak sensibility is more akin to label-mate Shannon Wright. Recorded with Steve Albini, the songs are left spare but whole, punctuated with moody strings and saws and accordions. She closes with the sleepy "That's All There Is," a painfully resigned country song about faltering love. Quiet and perfect. (Touch and Go)