TARA CARLIN reviews the stunning new LP from Laura Marling.
For old fans of Laura Marling, the release of Short Movie brings back fond memories of her youthful days as a backing vocalist for Noah and the Whale. Being a Laura Marling fan involves growing up with her albums, perhaps not to the same extent as how significant Harry Potter is, but for those who appreciate the tranquil folk that reminds one of Joni Mitchell. The year of 2008 saw her debut release with the playful, pop-folk style of Alas, I Cannot Swim. Now Marling, aged 25, has released her fifth album.
I once heard an uncanny description of the layout of Marling’s albums, which stated that the final song of each album provides a glimpse of what’s to come next. Although Short Movie opens with the acoustic track ‘Warrior’, the talented singer-songwriter has steered towards a totally different creative direction from 2013’s Once I was an Eagle. Marling has endeavoured on a sort-of existential journey; during the past two years the musician has had a series of experiences that weren’t necessarily ‘part of the creative plan’. She drifted through Los Angeles for a while, took a break from making music and even worked in the service industry.
Putting her feet down has allowed Marling to perform a micro-revolution. The compressed musical energy of her previous work has been released by going electric. There are indeed some major hits in the making on this LP: the title-track ‘Short Movie’ is spiritual and energetic and ‘I Feel Your Love’ is wonderfully confrontational. Her lyrics in this album may be more straightforward, but that does not make them any less profound. Marling asks at the start of ‘False Hope’: ‘Well, is it still ok that I don’t know how to be alone?’ There is an embracing aggressiveness to this simplicity, as if Marling is becoming more assertive with age and experience – and not just with the use of profanities in her lyrics.
Marling has ventured out into the electric realm without abandoning her signature style, so rather than a manufactured makeover Laura has undertaken a cathartic and regenerative process. Marling still embraces her fingerpicking simplicity with her traditional folk band set-up of cello, keyboard, bass and drums. She manages to push herself lyrically and indeed vocally, especially on tracks ‘Walk Alone’ and ‘Strange’, which uses a surprising but alluring spoken-singing style.
This is indeed her most innovative and dynamic album to date. However the electricity and abrasiveness of the new lyrics and vocals may alienate some old fans. Nevertheless, it is lyrically and musically empowering. Only time will reveal how it sits within the context of her previous albums.
Short Movie was released on March 23 by Virgin EMI.
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