Laura Marling returns with new record Song For Our Daughter, delivering her familiar tones and melodies but also creating deeper soundscapes that ebb and flow throughout.
If you think of unique and recognisable vocals from nu-folk artists, Laura Marling would be up there amongst Conor Oberst, M.Ward, and Marcus Mumford. On top of this, her lyrics can be some of the most nuanced around, at times, tantalisingly cryptic, at others on-the-nose honest, or fleetingly littered with subtle humour. It’s these little flourishes that separate great lyricists from the mediocre and new album Song For Our Daughter once again relishes in its wordplay and fervour. With the release date pushed forward to try and bring a little more happiness in light of the world’s dark situation, the record also sees Marling trying new things, perhaps brought out by recent collaboration project LUMP with Tunng’s Mike Lindsay and her enrollment onto a Psychoanalysis degree.
Alexandra starts off the record with the music reminiscent of late-era Beatles as tight acoustic melodies float and playful bass walks. Think of the heady beauty of Here Comes the Sun and you’d be on the right track. The vocals are what help offset the sound and give it that differing tangent. The listener is instantly reminded of the singer’s beautiful tones as the track builds into a chorus with the help of added layers that have been a rarity in past albums. Through both heavy and playful lyrics, the track balances itself nicely with Marling offhandedly throwing off “I had to try a fuck to give” with a stifling humility only she could muster. Previous release Held Down shows off more of the vocal layering that’s spread throughout the record, in this case using it as a hook to provide relief from the heavyset lyrics. Electric guitar is then used as a nice interlude between sections, making the track one of the boldest and brashest on the record.
For those of you that like Marling’s more contemplative moments, you’ll be glad to know she hasn’t left those behind. Only the Strong is back to the singer’s basics with a settled guitar and subtle beats providing a backdrop that gently builds with only slight help from accompaniments. Album-titled track Song for Our Daughter similarly uses a sparse backdrop to allow Marling’s vocals and words to shine, and shine they do, creating something out of nothing as her docile tones caress and care with that little hint of Karen Carpenter about them. What separates this track out, however, is when strings, drums and harmonies are added in for the closing half, bringing more power and energy to the track.
As the album rolls onward, you get used to these little extra flourishes Marling has littered throughout, each one bringing something different to each song. The End of the Affair has a subtle underlying drone that is raised at times by haunting backing vocals to create a tense atmosphere to suit the lyrics, whereas Hope We Meet Again shows off Marling’s penchant for wordplay that jumps from idea to idea whilst offering insight as the singer dwells on her own past: “I’ve lived my life in fits and spurts, maybe I’ve had more than I deserve.” The record ends on the raw but appealing For You, featuring some deep, grumbling backing vocals keeping the rhythm and elevating Laura’s vocals and melodies to new heights. A strong and mesmerizing finish.
Song for Our Daughter is a triumph in respect to an artist personally growing and implementing that growth into her music. The little touches throughout show Laura Marling has become more confident and happy enough to try new ideas, something that the singer may have been in two minds about in the past. It has led to a more rounded record that manages to surprise where you wouldn’t be expecting it, but still keeps that familiar presence we’ve come to crave. A fine effort that comes out of its shell a little more with each listen.