Marling has produced an album glowing with her own patented brand of wistful, nostalgic honesty, while shaking things up just enough to stand on its own.
If you’ve been following Laura recently, you’ve undoubtedly caught at least one or two of her many interviews. For someone almost as elusive as Mr Bowie, Laura has seemingly popped back into existence after spending around two years travelling America. I’m not painting any psychological pictures here, but these past two years seem to have had a very apparent effect upon Marling.
Safe to say, that whoever the new Laura is now, Short Movie showcases a refreshingly new and exciting side.
There are still glints of the Laura we know and love here; her vocals retain that comforting drawl she’s had going since A Creature I Don’t Know, her lyrical brilliance still shines as brightly as always and there’s snippets of those bluesy vibes from her previous record Once I was an Eagle. Aside from that, Marling’s music has undergone some seriously dramatic changes. To me, perhaps her most dynamic altercation is the degree of separation her lyrics seem to infer. Whereas in her previous albums, Laura would often play a different character or take on a different persona each time. However, in Short Movie, it feels like she’s cast off those roles altogether. Rather than playing the forlorn lover, the sheltered innocent or the vicious beast, Laura seems to be much more like an observer. She’s recording these events and stories like an omniscient bard.
This change very much reflects the overall tone of Short Movie. Marling paints her music in broad, unpredictable strokes. Opening track ‘Warrior’ oozes a surrealist nature, thrumming with the sound of footsteps across a wide open desert. Her lyrics just drift and meld along with it; “I’m just a horse with no name/ There are other beasts who think the same”. This is as post-modern as I’d want Laura to get. Everything feels intimate and yet free-flowing, her identity is ungraspable and somehow completely relatable. The most musically comparable of her albums is arguably A Creature…which was the first to really expand her use of different instruments. But even then, Short Movie takes this initiative and pushes it even further, with the record’s focus shifting irrevocably between electric and acoustic guitar and percussion.
The album’s pacing presents a great sense of variety, if a little irregular. It’s nice to hear Laura stretch out her legs a little and try something more unstructured. But at times it does lack the impact of a more effective, more structured pace. However, the lead off from the intensity of ‘False Hope’ and ‘Strange’, to the beautifully stripped down ‘Walk Alone’ does pack a punch. I also have to commend Marling’s guitar work here; it possesses a delicate yet impressive quality, with every pluck shimmering clear on every track. Consequently, the America influences are now even more distinct than they were in Once…; Bob Dylan still echoes throughout Laura’s vocal and lyrical performance. With her musical performance sounding rather like The Eagles, particularly on ‘Gurdjieff’s Daughter’ and ‘Divine’.
It’s hard to believe that after five albums in as little as eight years, Laura is still going strong. Having released albums so frequently, you’d think that even the most steadfast of artists would have tripped at least once. But Laura has learned that the best artists take risks. Here, Marling has produced an album glowing with her own patented brand of wistful, nostalgic honesty, while shaking things up just enough to stand on its own.
Short Movie was released 23rd March via Virgin Records.