Album review: Laura Marling - Semper Femina

Laura Marling

Laura Marling - Credit: Archant

A short, searing but seductive set from British folk’s brightest star

Her sixth album in less than a decade, Semper Femina finds Marling in typical, poetically forensic form.

A past master at excoriating observation and vivid vignette, the folk troubadour’s follow-up to 2015’s self-produced Short Movie offers no stylistic surprises.

In fact, aside from the early singles the album relies more heavily on acoustic guitar than any of its predecessors, with strings, piano and drum purposefully deployed under the watchful eye of producer Blake Mills.

That’s not to diminish the musicianship – the finger-picked guitar and string arrangement of the reflective Wild Once, for example, is seriously impressive.

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Low, languid double bass imparts an ominous tone to opener Soothing, too, demanding your attention as irresistibly as that voice of hers illuminating the contrariness of the female condition.

And it’s that enduring, irrational fascination which forms the lyrical core of Semper Femina, threaded with references to nature.

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The verdant, finger-picked strings of The Valley offset its protagonist mourning an unspoken loss, even sad at the dawn dew “and the newness that it brings”.

Wild Fire’s lulling, warm Americana sway compliments Marling’s sweetly breathy vocal, here delivering the incisive lines: “She puts it in a notepad; she’s gonna write a book someday. Course the only part that I want to read is about her time spent with me. Wouldn’t you die to know how you’re seen? Are you getting away with who you’re trying to be?”

Candid, combative, caring and corrosive by turns, Marling has never sounded so assured as she delves unflinchingly into mortality, loss, ego and anger.

It’s a disarmingly accessible and wonderfully idiosyncratic work. Still some way off her 30th birthday, with Semper Femina Marling continues to craft an admirable canon of enchanting, contemporary folk.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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