If you follow singer Laura Marling, you’ll see her latest album offers a change of scenery.
Laura Marling’s records are like journals, each one like a finished notebook. They routinely come out every two years and they are very personal and intimate, even when the songs aren’t about her. But the difference between a real journal and her records is that her writing has always been slathered with fantasy, perhaps more a book of parables.
This album is no exception. Short Movie contains a good number of life lessons that are eloquently pieced together with great imagery. But among the lyrically imaginative tracks, like opener Warrior, there are songs that are surprisingly autobiographical, like False Hope, Don’t Let Me Bring You Down and Easy. Of course, there are still elements of metaphor and embellishments. But that, along with her ability to weave spells with language as she does, makes repeated listening mandatory: the meanings change and grow the more you listen.
It seems Marling is now going in a new direction; in many ways the whole record spells out change. Her lyrics and songwriting have always shown an air of curiosity for the unknown.
Atmospherically speaking, the opener Warrior is the most beautifully assembled song on the album. It borrows the earnest sure-footedness of her previous album Once I Was an Eagle and then whips the floor out from under it, creating a dreamlike, almost psychedelic, composition that glides and echoes. She has a few airy and solemn tracks – Howl for example – and there’s even a feel of desert rock that pervades.
Short Movie is the first album she’s produced on her own, and she has done a good job. There are only few moments here and there when you wish elements were stronger. It doesn’t quite match up to some of the production work by Ethan Johns, her producer for the last three albums, but that may come in time. Most people won’t even notice the difference.
As a whole, the album is in stark contrast to her previous album as it has many musically upbeat tracks. To top it off, she’s broken the mould of having primarily acoustic instruments, with songs like False Hope or Gurdjieff’s Daughter that predominantly use electric guitars. This little twist has redefined what was already a bold, dynamic style of arrangement.
Maybe it’s the fact she lived in the US for the first time, or that she scrapped many songs and took six months off writing, but the songs feel different to her back catalogue. There is a kind of warm idealism buried deep in these astute observations on entrapment, acceptance and perseverance.
One of the greatest things about Laura Marling is that there is this feeling of you growing with her, of being taken along for the ride. Every two years we get a glimpse of an evolving creature. She is an artist seething with potential, with signs that something great is always around the corner in every album. This makes the release of each album exciting.
It would truly be interesting to see her take more time to create her next record, three or even four years. Who knows what that could inspire in such an incredibly watchful mind. Short Movie is indeed a great record, something you can play on repeat. But Marling’s best is yet to come.
Rated: 8/10 – Sion Weatherhead
Top image – Album artwork