Laura Marling, Song For Our Daughter (Chrysalis Records/Partisan) ****
LAURA Marling’s style is elegance personified, that distinctive voice flouting over a summery backing.
For this record, the production is more expansive, but never immodestly. This album, her seventh, is written to an imaginary daughter, but not in the crib-style of Jackie Oates’ Lullabies.
Held Down is a frank song about power and relationships, and probably not for pass-the-parcel playlists. The songwriter has described Song For Our Daughter as “a rumination on modern femininity”, and the spaces in between the words leaves plenty of room for interpretation. This is a record to close around you like a hug. It’s not stifling; 36 minutes and you are done.
Most distinctive, and probably the soonest to pall, is Strange Girl, swept along on a Latin riff and a naggingly good chorus. Marling sounds in control, even when singing about the opposite, and Joni Mitchell remains the closest comparison.
You sense Marling stretching out, but nimbly rather than dramatically, astute enough to move forward at a pace her audience can live with. The strong arrangements are tastefully done and beautifully recorded.
If Only The Strong Survives is becalmed, the message is irrefutable: Marling is in this for the long run. No histrionics or Penderecki. Blow By Blow’s stark piano beauty sees the singer chasing a kind of Blue, and was inspired by Paul McCartney. The aura of Leonard Cohen hovers near the opening Alexandra.
Like the wonderful Bedouine, Song For Our Daughter is calming and mellifluous, a summer brook, but dip below the jewelled surface and the temperature soon drops. Hope We Meet Again is particularly effective, this time half spoken, while For You ends happily, the sort of coda that Nilsson might have once conceived.
Review by Paul Rhodes
Only One Question for Laura Marling…
Why did you speed-release Song For Our Daughter in lockdown “ahead of our planned schedule”?
“IN light of the change to all our circumstances, 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,” says Laura.
“It’s strange to watch the facade of our daily lives dissolve away, leaving only the essentials; those we love and our worry for them.
“An album, stripped of everything that modernity and ownership does to it, is essentially a piece of me, and I’d like for you to have it. I’d like for you, perhaps, to hear a strange story about the fragmentary, nonsensical experience of trauma and an enduring quest to understand what it is to be a woman in this society.
“When I listen back to it now, it makes more sense to me then when I wrote it. My writing, as ever, was months, years, in front of my conscious mind. It was there all along, guiding me gently through the chaos of living. And that, in itself, describes the sentiment of the album – how would I guide my daughter, arm her and prepare her for life and all of its nuance?
“I’m older now, old enough to have a daughter of my own, and I feel acutely the responsibility to defend The Girl. The Girl that might be lost, torn from innocence prematurely or unwittingly fragmented by forces that dominate society. I want to stand behind her and whisper in her ear all the confidences and affirmations I had found so difficult to provide myself. This album is that strange whisper; a little distorted, a little out of sequence, such is life.
“I want you to have it.”