Marling has returned from her three-year hiatus with 'beautiful insights into femininity and trauma'Instagram/lauramarling

It’s been three years since Laura Marling released her sixth album Semper Femina, taking its title from Virgil’s Aeneid; translated as ‘always a woman’. This was apt, given the album’s intimate investigation into the mythology that pertains to womanhood and all the tumultuous self-discovery that comes with it. The final song, ‘Nothing, Not Nearly’, ends on an ambiguous note – Marling puts down her guitar and walks out of the studio. We hear birdsong from outside.

Song For Our Daughter, Marling’s latest concept album, marks her return. The result of her three-year hiatus is a crystal-clear, deeply personal, and triumphant ode to healing. At only ten tracks long, Marling guides the listener through “the fragmentary, nonsensical experience of trauma”, and the “enduring quest to understand what it is to be a woman in this society.”

Its tone flits between an older, slightly waned maturity grappling with the maxim “love is a sickness cured by time”, and a buoyant celebration of young women in all their strangeness, loneliness, angriness, and braveness. It is kaleidoscopic, despairing, gentle, and wise.

"It is kaleidoscopic, despairing, gentle, and wise."

Each track is stripped back to the bare minimum, with instrumentation generally serving only to underscore Marling’s soft warbling voice. ‘Song For Our Daughter’, the album’s eponymous track, is utterly masterful in this regard. Here she sings about “innocence lost, but it’s not forgot” in a tone that looks unflinchingly at her own youth with an eye half-open to the future of her imagined daughter. Her silvery vocals are first underpinned by a recognisable Marling-esque acoustic guitar, but a tender violin enters and swells to devastating effect.

Marling is often, understandably, compared to Leonard Cohen. She tackles this comparison head on in her first song, ‘Alexandra’, which reverses the mysterious-femme figure in Cohen’s song ‘Alexandra Leaving’, and asks instead “where did Alexandra go?If this sounds didactic, I promise it isn’t. Its country/rock sound and optimism is an invigorating way to begin the album.

Yet it lulls the listener into a false sense of security, for in her dissection of innocence and trauma, Marling sometimes meanders down painful paths. ‘Blow by Blow’ is such an example. Her elliptical lyricism suggests a cool detachment, which is then quickly undercut by an almost cinematic piano and string composition that beg to differ. Yes, it’s a ballad, but not as we know it. She’s cryptic – spine chillingly so – but never at the expense of narrative.

"the album is ultimately a beautiful testament to the power of hope and healing."

This is Marling at her most accomplished. Here she’s stripped of that nu-folk percussion that so characterised her earlier work, but there’s great lucidity in this simplicity. Her voice is as chameleonic as ever: in ‘Strange Girl’ she takes on an effortless and assured country twang that fans will recognise from ‘Master Hunter’, and yet the vocals in ‘The End of The Affair’ possess a nightingale-like quality that is both diaphanous and sorrowful. It is telling of Marling’s proficiency as an artist that she is able to create this symbiosis without the need for unnecessarily complicated production.

Theatregoers might recognise ‘Hope We Meet Again’ from Robert Icke’s adaptation of Mary Stuart, which will conjure memories of a haunting final scene. Yet even devoid of its theatrical context, the track glimmers; the acoustic and pedal steel guitar combining to produce notes of hopefulness and loneliness to a chilling effect. When angelic backing vocals billow behind Marling’s “I have not lived any other way”, it is nothing short of breath taking. 


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Song For Our Daughter is an astonishing achievement, boasting not a single weak track. Though it finds particular strength in Marling’s seamless and subtle coalescing of the youthful and the wise; the stark and the intimate, the album is ultimately a beautiful testament to the power of hope and healing. In ‘For You’, the final track, Marling breezily repeats I thank a God I've never met/ Never loved, never wanted.” Wherever Marling has been since she left the studio at the end of recording for Semper Femina, she has returned with beautiful new insights into femininity and trauma, and with a sound that affirms her place at the forefront of folk.

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