Album Review: Laura Marling – Short Movie
Short Movie (Virgin)
Although Once I Was An Eagle was my favourite album of 2013, it’s strangely refreshing to know that Laura Marling isn’t totally impervious, as an artist and as a person. Her recent sojourns in Los Angeles have added some colour to her backstory, whisking her away from what may have become a comfort zone, and shaking up her personal and creative views. With several of her endeavours (including an application to a creative writing course) spurned, and a fresh taste for psychedelics, spiritualism, and rootless American wanderings indulged, Marling clearly travelled a bumpy route in the interim between Once I Was an Eagle and Short Movie.
Perhaps as a consequence, the latter feels much more grounded, with Marling’s characteristic poise a little less sharp, in a way which – if not radical – makes for an earthier listen. Uncertainty plays a large role in Short Movie, with Marling’s own unsteady path over the past two years yielding some very direct chorus refrains, and leaving behind some of the overreaching literary references of yesteryear. Rather than losing herself in allusions, this time Marling anchors herself in more straightforward writing, with her most forthcoming lyrics arriving in ‘False Hope’, wherein her guard is briefly lowered as she releases basic admissions of doubt: “is it still okay that I don’t know how to be alone?” This tone is abetted by her loudest arrangement yet; her descending riffs and backing band’s propulsion summoning figurative storm clouds, which make a quietly menacing return for the snarling ‘Don’t Let Me Bring You Down’.
A similar moodiness surfaces occasionally across the album, with its first half in particular given to Marling’s various frustrations. On the whole, however, this is the artist’s loosest album since her debut, sounding much less tightly-wound than I Speak Because I Can and Once I Was An Eagle. The minimalism of Short Movie’s predecessor is rebuffed with a tasteful emergence of electric guitars, and an interesting use of ad hoc string arrangements gives these songs an organic sense of spaciousness. The marvellous title track is a prime example of this more welcoming approach; a warm, widescreen standout which gallops to its stirring mantra with palpable joy.
This lightness of touch dovetails well with Marling’s first stint in the producer’s chair. Although there’s barely a difference aesthetically, these songs frequently feel less ornate than her past works. Aside from a few common musical and lyrical threads, these thirteen songs feel gathered together, rather than intensely curated. Consequently, Short Movie seems to cover a lot of ground stylistically, and Marling’s willingness to branch out is largely very becoming, birthing gems such as the jangling ‘Gurdjieff’s Daughter’ and the lovely ‘Worship Me’.
It’s not a flawless album, and Marling’s (possibly conscious) tendency to add an American twang to her singing voice is only heightened here, never more overtly than on the playfully sardonic ‘Strange’ – this record’s Marmite moment. Taken in a single listen, Short Movie is also less cohesively gripping than its precursors, but by the same token, it’s good to hear Marling loosening up after several years of intense refinement. Five albums in, and she continues to incrementally tinker with her winning formula, without breaking its captivating spell.
“It’s a short fucking movie, man.”
Posted on April 3, 2015, in The Music World and tagged Album Review, Don't Let Me Bring You Down, False Hope, Gurdjieff's Daughter, Laura Marling, Los Angeles, Once I Was An Eagle, Short Movie, Strange, Virgin, Worship Me. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.