There are some artists that, for the want of a better phrase, know how to join the dots. Following unconventional, but in hindsight fascinating, paths Nina Nastasia is one of those artists. Her latest release Outlaster is a record that betrays her previous sparseness and takes that daring step into the dramatic world of orchestral arrangements. With her usual melancholic lyrics and delicate vocal delivery she creates the perfect foil for the theatrical orchestration. Helped in no small part by the skills of legendary producer Steve Albini and veteran arranger Paul Bryan (Aimee Mann, Allen Toussaint and Mavis Staples), Outlaster takes Nastasia to new places without sacrificing her much-loved rawness and charm. Her first album in two years it’s a work a consideration and commitment. Featuring heartrending tales of perseverance it expresses, among other things, Nina’s cynicism toward our fascination with immortality and the afterlife. In the album’s title track she sings of a lonely soul who has outlived the natural term of her own life. Themes like this may give Outlaster tragic overtones but when listened to as a whole there’s a reassuring honesty about the record. Nastasia’s lyrics are wise without being pious and produce, to paraphrase John Peel, “an attractive air of melancholy without self-pity.” Interview magazine called her “the rare artist who creates a new form from which others will copy.” Outlaster will either prove this to be true or simply cause her imitators to admit defeat.