Just how beautiful is The Blackened Air? Remarkably beautiful, though it's far from a smooth train ride through the rustic southern town where it seemingly takes place. Chunks of falling ice nearly take the lives of pigeons, peeping Toms leer outside windows, communication between two lovers breaks down, and the days pass by slowly, only to repeat themselves over and over and over again. The clouds look more like coal than cotton, and one of the protagonists is capable of drowning the town's people in her tears. Backed by a skilled cast of musicians who take on the standard rock band instrumentation plus bowed saw, accordion, violin, cello, and mandolin, singer/songwriter/guitarist Nina Nastasia spins her lazy, elegantly adorned tales of rural life with a voice that effortlessly slips into your ears. She rarely belts it out, because her lithe voice is perfectly capable of gaining attention when it's just above a whisper. In fact, when her voice is just a little louder than audible, she's at her most powerful. Lines like "I want you...I want you...I want to strike you" fall from her mouth as if she doesn't want to wake the slumbering partner lying next to her, conflicted between lust and dread. This record flows so easily that it sounds as if it made itself. However, engineer Steve Albini should be commended for making this record sound as if it was birthed in a spacious, creaky farmhouse. Intimate, delicate, and laced with greatness, Nastasia's second release is one of those records that only takes one listen to be justly evaluated as special and timeless. The pain is sweet. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi

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