Laura Marling “Inspired by America”

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Laura Marling travelled to the states to record her fifth album, Short Movie; a fifty minute reminder that, at 25 years old and after numerous nominations at award shows in her seven year-long career, she is certainly not done.

Very obviously inspired by her time in America, the tracks on Short Movie tell tales of self-reflection and address identity, belonging and turmoils of love. The style remains markedly folky, Marling’s forte, but rock and American blues undertones can also be heard at times. Instead of singing about England covered in snow as she did on her album, “I Speak Because I Can”, she is ponders about how she “got lost looking for God in Santa Cruz” and mentions staying “in the apartment on the Upper West Side”.

Photo credit: Michael Gallacher

Photo credit: Michael Gallacher

What Short Movie is not, is basic. It is difficult to tell if the lyrics apply to Marling herself, or are the product of her telling someone else’s story (she addresses a man with a wife and children when singing “I don’t love you like you love me, I’m pretty sure that you know” in “Strange”, but is this really Marling recalling being involved with a married man?). However, on many of the songs she does also drop insights into living in LA – where she stayed for two years before moving back to London – and it is difficult not to assume she penned the beginning lines to “Don’t Let Me Bring You Down” as a result of moving to a new city, where her friendship circle would have been much smaller (“Living here is a game I don’t know how to play, are you really not anybody until somebody knows your name?”).

In “Easy”, Marling takes the idea of loneliness and turns it around, instead suggesting that finding oneself is a venture best done without company (“You can’t be lost if you’re not on your own, you can’t be found if you’re not all alone”). However, this track does come after “Walk Alone”, in which Marling confesses to someone that she needs them in her life. It is honest and heart-breaking at the same time (“I don’t believe this shit, I was doing fine without it, now I can’t walk alone”), reminding us that falling in love can complicate a previously simple life and does not always end up making things better.

Produced by Ethan Johns (who also has ties with sister folk group, The Staves), the album is mostly stripped and simplistic. This is effective for matching Marling’s gentle voice and thoughtful lyrics and you can almost picture the intimate creation process between Marling and Johns. There are instances when this precious simplicity is slightly lost (there is a moment of “Gurdjieff’s Daughter” where Marling’s raw vocals battle against the need to draw breath, but are instead overshadowed by rousing drumming and strumming), but there are also tracks that feel deliberately less folky and instead, give us something new – rock Marling.

Marling uses much more electric guitar in this album, audible in most of the 13 tracks but most obvious in the heavier songs like “False Hope” and “Don’t Let me Bring You Down” (which share notably similar riffs at times and sound almost like consecutive chapters). Laura Marling is often associated with artists like Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan (understandably, as she has spoken about their influences in previous interviews), but “Don’t Let Me Bring You Down” starts off sounding like it belongs in the intro of a Rolling Stones song.

Short Movie came out in March – press play and join Laura Marling on her voyage of self-discovery.

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Jessica Brough is the Editor of bite (2015/16). She writes about music and popular culture.

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