Strangers is Marissa Nadler's seventh full-length album in the span of 12 years. For an artist that, at basics, is just singing with a guitar, it is surprising how she manages to create something completely new each time, and with such prolificity. Each time she brings out a new album, it's like her sound is blooming once more in haunting and darkly beautiful colours, and each time it seems she has somehow grown grander and more striking.

As suggested by the title, the songs on Strangers are less directly personal, but they lose absolutely nothing in their potency. Even on previous albums she would use other names as surrogates for her own feelings, but the emotions and messages were so universal, and rendered so eloquently, that they never failed to make a connection. With each passing album, Nadler re-casts her astounding voice into new surroundings. Although it may still only be the voice and guitar that capture your consciousness at first, there is so much subtlety to her backing, adding boundless depth. 'Katie I Know' centres around her voice and simple guitar, but in the murky darkness beyond this central conversation between Nadler and the titular character, there is warmth. The soft organ, minor violin use and simplistic drumming amplify the emotion of the vocal, so that when it comes time to sing the titular phrase in the chorus, you feel as if you fully understand the weight with which Katie is burdened. The other tracks on the album that name particular forlorn women - the "natural disaster" of 'Janie in Love' and the elusive presence of 'Shadow Show Diane' - are no less wondrous in their execution. In each song Nadler exhumes the spirit of her subject and makes them dance in softly-lit slow motion, graceful and utterly innocent, despite their many shortcomings. Through her vocals and arrangements, Nadler expresses a deep love for her subjects that transcends the music.

Marissa Nadler seems to have the kind of voice that rises and falls with the delightful subtlety of a cool breeze in a barren land. Opening track 'Divers of the Dust' is the perfect example of this, her voice shifting and morphing like dust caught in an unpredictable little windstorm. In 'Skyscraper' she casually raises her voice for the chorus, combined with a deep surge in the low end that creates a tension that softly blindsides you. In the glorious organ-led ballad 'All The Colours of the Dark' you can imagine her voice painting whirlpools in mid-air of heretofore unseen shades of blue and black, like the embers floating out of a purple fire, utterly transfixing the listener. The stately march of 'Hungry is the Ghost' is Nadler's biggest song to date; centred around a plodding bass, the gradual addition of synthesizers, pedal steel and piano swells into a gaping maw of despair, around which Nadler's emotions swirl and flutter, helplessly calling out for connection.

Despite the beauty of all the songs here, and particularly Nadler's voice leading the way, there is no getting away from the fact that she makes dark music, and this is her most gloomy to date. By once again enlisting Randall Dunn on production (who is more known for work in the metal sphere), they have together created an album that has soft edges but sharp insides. Nadler's voice is alluring, but the lyrics are deeply affecting, and with the additional atmospheric punch and growling instrumentation, the gothic nature of her music rears its fearsome and imposing head. Strangers is an astounding combination of styles that takes music that is fairly usual, and turns it into something completely unique that strikes slowly but deeply, and irrevocably.