This is a welcome time for new music – more than any other. That’s something acknowledged by British folk singer Laura Marling, who has dropped her seventh solo album four months early. “I saw no reason to hold back on something that, at the very least, might entertain, and at its best, provide some sense of union”, she explains about the premature release, to the delight of her fans.
The opening track ‘Alexandra’ is strong and inviting, with seventies-instrumentals and an apparent allusion to Leonard Cohen’s ‘Alexandra Leaving’. ‘Held Down’ follows, with Marling’s impressive lyricism making a full appearance, her easy witticisms likely bringing a smile to long-time listeners, and to those who have just discovered the singer-songwriter alike.
Marling builds moments of sturdy courage: “don’t bullshit me,” she warns, “I love you my strange girl, my angry girl, my brave” – only to give way to soft vulnerability. The stripped bare ‘Blow by Blow’ is slow and mournful and feels slightly divergent to the songwriter’s usual style. Perhaps it’s the piano accompaniment in the place of her guitar – it’s beautiful, but the familiar guitar plucking that picks up in the following track is welcomed with open arms.
It’s poignant that much of Marling’s new album is so inward looking. This is a global period in which we are spending more time with our own thoughts than ever, a time in which introspection from another’s perspective – another’s voice – is a gratifying gift.
The sentiment of the fourth track, ‘only the strong can survive’, might seem a little anxiety-inducing at first. Of course, ‘surviving’ isn’t literal here. “Only the wrong relive their lives,” she follows. We’re reminded that our minds can be our worst enemies, constantly re-tracing the past to no effect. It’s a sombre sentiment, yet it proves hopeful. Resilience within ourselves is one of the strongest tools we have. With more time to reflect than ever, all this free time might just be a welcome gift, too.
Marling seems to be grappling with past – yet she is also consistently looking forwards. In what presents itself as an ode to her future daughter, the title track serves as more than advice: it is an enlightenment to all of our daughters, and to the album’s listeners. Many of Marling’s lyrics have been grounded in the subject of female identity and relationships over the years. ‘Semper Femina’, her 2017 album and most recent solo release, is defined by this exploration, and its something Song for Our Daughter pursues. The title track is tender yet biting in its honesty: ‘‘Lately I’ve been thinking about our daughter growing old, all of the bullshit that she might be told’. Somehow, Marling builds hope amongst cold realities.
Marling is ever evocative in her images, managing to surprise amongst graceful melodic simplicity. At just 10 tracks, the record doesn’t overstay, nor does it feel rushed. Perhaps imperfect, it is beautifully authentic, honest, moody and then abruptly uplifting. It’s an album about romantic love, loss, friendship, time: the past, and the future. The final track ‘For You’ is warm and appreciative. “Love is not the answer, but the line that marks the start,” she sings, and it resonates.