Marnie Stern, ‘The Chronicles of Marnia’ – Album Review
On her third album, Marnie Stern hasn’t quite traded in her finger-tapping guitar chops for pop chords, but ‘The Chronicles of Marnia’ is certainly her catchiest to date. Longtime drummer Zach Hill may have left to focus on Death Grips full time, but his replacement, Kid Millions, is a fitting successor who keeps up without hogging Stern’s spotlight. Much of the album is frantic enough to satisfy older diehard fans, and the more melodic nature of the songs gives listeners a playful third album from the musician.
'Year of the Glad' is the first single, and as the album's opener, it shimmers with wide-eyed wonder, as Stern announces, "Everything starts now." With some vocal bits that resemble yodeling, some finely detailed riffing and a carefree attitude, it perfectly sets the tone for the entire album. 'Noonan' plays similarly in its uplifting nature. When Stern sings, "Don’t you wanna be somebody?" it’s not to be taken as an insult, but rather as an uplifting sentiment that empowers. Lyrically, here and elsewhere, Stern often sounds like an indie rock version of a self-help author without letting her positive sentiments get over-the-top preachy.
"Nothing is easy!" Stern acknowledges on the song of the same title, making said declaration over her signature tapping style and particularly rambunctious drumming. Rather than let that keep her down, it’s clear she’s taking the message on as motivation to keep pushing herself. Meanwhile, 'East Side Glory' further highlights her technical talent and continues to showcase an earnest vulnerability. "The plan was to do this forever," sings Stern. "Can I still?"
Stern hasn’t lost any of her eccentricities. She's merely refined them and approached her songs with a renewed focus on poppier hooks. At just over 33 minutes, 'The Chronicles of Marnia' doesn’t suffer in the slightest. Musically she’s still creating complex guitar work, but her message is simple: keep pushing. It's an exhilarating listen that’s at once appropriately energetic and unflinchingly sincere.