Saturday, January 02, 2021

Song For Our Daughter – Laura Marling Album Review

There is beauty in simplicity and this is certainly the case of ‘Song For Our Daughter’, the seventh album from the venerable singer-songwriter Laura Marling. Originally set to have been released in the summer of this year, Marling treated us all to the album earlier than planned, explaining that the decision to do so was in light of the change of all our circumstances. … It might entertain, and at its best, provide some sense of union.” 

It has certainly done both of those and far more. Delicate, yet fiercely succinct, it both saddens and soothes. My own Mum (who usually pays little attention to whatever music is oozing out of my bedroom) even felt compelled to pop her head round the door whilst this album was playing to ask whose it was. Perhaps she unknowingly sensed the theme of motherhood? 

Perhaps she was just drawn in by Marling’s heavenly vocals?  

As the title suggests, the album is about motherhood, love, and protection. She offers musings and advice to an imaginary daughter with the record as a whole acting as “an enduring quest to understand what it is to be a woman in this society”. It is only natural that these feelings and themes arose in Marling’s writing as she turned 30 this year, a big milestone, particularly for a woman. 

Despite her young age, this album could be the work of an artist in their twilight years as she reflects back on her own life with great emotional maturity. She discusses topics of love and pain but with the calm and balanced tone that only comes after you’ve already had your heart broken once or twice, yet, also seen it heal – “Love is a sickness cured by time”. We must remember however, that despite her age, Marling is no rookie, indeed she has been on the scene now for over 10 years, recording her Mercury-nominated debut album aged just 17. 

Since the release of her first album, she has rightfully gained another 3 more Mercury Prize nominations, (one of which for ‘Song For Our Daughter’) alongside a couple of Grammy nominations (no biggie).   

I’ve been a big fan of Marling’s for a little while now and upon the initial listen of her latest album, it was clear that there is a definite shift in Marling’s music. She herself has credited some of these shifts in part to her work in LUMP and in the collaborative album she released back in 2018 with Mercury Prize-winning producer, Mike Lindsay of Tunng. Throughout ‘Songs For Our Daughter’, Marling makes significant changes in her musical style, she does away with the bluesy grit prevalent on her previous albums and instead strips everything down to the bare essentials. She certainly doesn’t need much in terms of musical accompaniment to frame her beautiful voice. 

On this record, she undoubtedly reinforces the view that the human voice is in itself an instrument, as her tone, accent and delivery effortlessly fluctuate. The most striking example I can give of this is the line “I love you, goodbye” on ‘The End of the Affair’ in which a layered, multi-tracked swirl of Marling’s vocals delivers one of the most heart-breaking sentences anyone could ever have to say. This line however, is quickly followed with the more directly delivered line ‘Now let me live my life’. There’s some of that emotional maturity I was talking about earlier (instead of being this pragmatic, I’d likely be screaming this line through tears and snot). My forte, I think, is ambiguity, which is definitely still on there,” Marling recently said. “But on some of the songs, there’s just a very straightforward sentiment.”  

Marling is able to shift from the sarcastic and swaggering tone you hear in the likes of ‘Strange Girl’ (at one point you can even hear a little laugh escape her lips) to the soft, yet aching despair you hear in the line ‘Release me / from this unbearable pain’ and throughout the rest of the song ‘Fortune’. For me, ‘Fortune’ is the hidden gem of the album, tucked in and placed just after the title track. Marling herself has described ‘Fortune’ as one of the better songs she’s ever written. Written very quickly, these types of songs just seem to ‘fall out’ (apparently). ‘Fortune’ therefore comes with the honesty of being written very quickly, there is simply no time to edit or withdraw some of the details that have already been shared and spilled.  

Although she sings about trauma and unrest throughout most of the ‘Song For Our Daughter’, Marling’s tone and lyrical wit leaves us all with an air of serenity, calm, and hope - as if she somehow knows that everything will turn out all right in the end. The final track ‘For You’ discusses the topic of finding true, long-lasting love after years of searching - “I had called out for you / Almost every night/ Precious things are hard to find”. This song acts as the generous parting gift of an already beautifully crafted album. I can only hope that my turntable needle is limbering up as its muscles will be truly flexed and overworked as soon as my order of this record and the ‘Laura Marling – Live from Union Chapel’ vinyl arrives. In the meantime, though, Marling’s ‘The Lockdown Sessions’ EP will do. 

 Eleanor Holloway-Pratt 


Photograph: Partisan Records

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