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Laura Marling - Song For Our Daughter (Album Review)

Friday, 17 April 2020 Written by Simon Ramsay

Photo: Justin Tyler Close

As we reframe the way we live in light of the current global predicament it may be that our attention spans broaden for a time, allowing us to absorb art without instantly dashing off for the next quick fix. That doesn’t just mean consuming albums as full bodies of work, but truly listening to the artistry within marvellous records like this quietly magical effort from Laura Marling.

Described as being “stripped of everything that modernity and ownership does to it,” ‘Song For Our Daughter’ is wonderfully lush when required, yet unerringly intimate throughout. Its lovingly woven songs not only put further distance between Marling and the reductive nu-folk mark she was branded with early in her career, but also offer the kind of beautifully spacious and, given the climate, appropriately contemplative 1970s singer-songwriter pacing that recalls everyone from Joni Mitchell to Carole King and Carly Simon.

This isn’t an album to put on in the background while you do your online shopping. It’s a record to lose yourself in and let Marling’s hypnotic stories and carefully etched textures, whether sparse and delicate or rich and widescreen, wash all over you.

Strange Girl’s irrepressible hippy rhythms and acoustic zest imagine a lost out take from Led Zeppelin ‘III’ sung by Chrissie Hynde, while the title track’s emotionally resplendent strings are truly gorgeous. Blow By Blow, meanwhile, finds Marling reflecting wistfully, in the vein of a young Tori Amos, over a simple piano melody that allows her bruised words to soar like a comet through the blackest night.

What impresses most, though, are both the sublime harmonies that swim in and out of each composition and Marling’s increasingly mature singing. With that strong ‘70s pop vibe to the fore, the ascending ethereal backing vocals on Held Down are a dream of purest gold. But it’s on Hope We Meet Again, however, that Marling truly stuns.  

Each line isn’t only delivered as distinctly as possible, showcasing what a wonderfully instinctive, dexterous and dynamic vocalist she’s become, but in a way that perfectly brings the inherent sentiments within each piece of poetry to life. Remove all the music and it would be an a cappella gem of the highest quality.

This is a record that, although refusing to ignore life’s hard truths, still offers an air of empowerment within each track. Alexandra references Leonard Cohen, pondering what it would have been like to have existed as his muse, before switching perspectives and giving the titular woman a much needed voice. Only The Strong Survive is full of slow-burning, steely resilience and Fortune quietly praises a mother who, although only a small gesture, stows away funds to bequeath herself a slice of independence.

Such simmering spirit permeates every element of ‘Song For Our Daughter’. It’s a record with a broad musical scope, but one that will speak calmly and reassuringly in the ear of anyone who’s desperate to take a deep breath, invest in themselves, dial out the noise of modern society, and find a source of strength to negotiate the madness that’s threatening to engulf us all.

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