Nina Nastasia | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Nina Nastasia 

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On her last album, The Blackened Air, New York's Nina Nastasia grappled with the emotional ambiguities of adulthood in melodically concise, Appalachian-inflected songs. Her lyrics embrace the present in the face of an evaporating future; on the new Run to Ruin (Touch and Go) she denies herself even that solace. The album is bookended by songs that explore the way failed communication wastes relationships. The narrator of "We Never Talked" rues the squandered opportunities that have left her and her lover stranded in no-man's-land: "All the love I have left you won't know / All the fear I have left you won't know." In "While We Talk" the singer finds herself concentrating not on the words coming out of her partner's mouth but the cake crumbs around it. "Regrets" is about a bleak sexual encounter in a hotel room; "I Say That I Will Go" concerns a woman forced to cross a rough section of town to bail a friend out of jail; "On Teasing" chronicles the last moments before a death by drowning. The instrumental support is the same as last time--viola, guitar, drums, piano, upright bass, musical saw, cello, banjo, and hammer dulcimer--but here the arrangements are more open. Single-note lines hover without resolving, come together in thunderous explosions, then turn back into mist; the music seems intended more to match the peaks and valleys of her lyrics than to be captivating or catchy. It works. Via Tania (see Post No Bills) opens. Thursday, July 17, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.

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