Laura Marling “Song For Our Daughter” (Chrysalis/Partisan Records, 2020)

The seventh solo album by English singer-songwriter Laura Marling was released earlier than planned to provide “something that, at the very least, might entertain, and at its best, provide some sense of union” in these uncertain times. It is notionally written to her imaginary daughter (or younger self) – effectively based on the observations and advice Laura herself might have wanted.

Her writing delights in the ambiguity provided by expressing her personal reflections within the confines of literary observation. Marling explains “The title comes from the central song on the album and it’s likely somewhat an homage to Letter to My Daughter, the Maya Angelou book, which is a series of essays to a fictional daughter, or to a kind of a wide, broad idea of a daughter; a younger generation of women.

The use of sparse musical arrangements by a female songwriter in the folk genre makes comparisons to Joni Mitchell somewhat inevitable. This could be considered as ‘Blue’ for a modern generation in both style and personal content, but the overall feel is positive and outward-looking rather than reflective and melancholy. The songcraft expresses both internal stresses and dissatisfaction while the delivery maintains essential carefree and joyous elements.

The album opens strongly with ‘Alexandra’ which is purportedly a response to Leonard Cohen’s ‘Alexandra’s Leaving’ and the projections people put upon women. It showcases both her soaring vocal capabilities and her direct writing style “I had to try, a fuck to give, why should I die, so you can live?”. ‘Strange Girl’ steps along brightly with strummed guitar and full band backing, encouraging the listener to stay strong through their mistakes. Her mid-Atlantic twang and vocal style being reminiscent of early Sheryl Crow. ‘Only the Strong’ is relatively self-explanatory and begins with a sparse percussive beat and delicate guitar picking, gradually incorporating additional elements. ‘Song For Our Daughter’ plays through beautifully, building from a slow acoustic number to effectively combine expansive piano and string arrangements (with Rob Moose, best known for Bon Iver).

Throughout the album, the recording quality emphasises the emotive expression of the vocals, which sound both immediate and personal. Her songwriting and expression have undoubtedly grown as a consequence of her desire to avoid repetition. This is less folk-oriented that her earlier releases and is arguably her finest work to date, it is unashamedly written from a female perspective with her observations exposing her fragility and simultaneously demonstrating her strength. “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.

Polished melodies and personal advice for modern times
8/10

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