Release Date: Mar 24, 2015
Record label: Ribbon Music
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Indie Folk
To longtime devotees of British folk singer Laura Marling, hearing the first electric guitar drone on her new album Short Movie will feel akin to Dylan fans watching that folk prophet plug in at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. Marling’s first four albums, all released before the wunderkind turned 24, are beautifully minimalist, building complexity around Marling’s deft acoustic fingerpicking and preternaturally poetic lyrics. Marling has thus evolved into a precocious musical auteur, having developed over the course of this early work an unmistakable musical signature that distinguishes her from the flock of roots musicians, both American and British, who have come into vogue alongside her over the years.
There was a time when releasing your fifth album before you were 25 wasn’t that remarkable: Dylan managed eight, George Harrison nine and Donovan ten, all before their quarter century. Michael Jackson was on his twentieth. That was a different time though, and a different industry. These days getting to five is pretty impressive in itself - most acts drop off the radar way before that.
Laura Marling is not fucking around on Short Movie. She asks some unnamed antagonist lover that same question—“Do I look like I’m fucking around?”—on “Don’t Let Me Bring You Down,” about midway through her surprisingly aggressive fifth studio album. Following the success of 2013’s epic breakup record, Once I Was An Eagle, and a self-reassessment spell away from music, the 25-year-old English singer returns reinvigorated, yet resoundingly serious on Short Movie.
Before we go ahead and lament the paucity of female voices in a testosterone-saturated musical landscape, let us hail the growing coterie of female singer-songwriters who have been baring their souls and talents on top-notch records for quite a long time. PJ Harvey, Sharon Van Etten, Tune-Yards’ Merrill Garbus, Natalie Prass (a more recent contender)—they’ve been on critics’ radar, but for a variety of misty reasons, the kinds of records these women produce don’t seem to be marketable enough for an audience that can’t be automatically labeled as ‘’quirky’’ or ‘’alternative’’. The good thing, however, is that the kinds of records these women produce are invariably good.
The refrain ‘It’s a short fucking movie, man’, which gives Laura Marling‘s fifth album its title, was apparently the mantra uttered by a self-described shaman the singer met at random in northern California. Exactly what he meant by that is unclear: perhaps it was intended as a comment on mortality and fate, the ephemeral nature of lives lived by players responding to external scripts and directions. In any case, Marling found inspiration enough in it to use it as the basis for the rich, frank title track.
With ‘Once I Was An Eagle’, Laura Marling earned her stripes as one of the key folk artists of her generation. Relentlessly pursuing naivety, while wryly tossing around sly references to greats like Bob Dylan - and, indeed, Marling‘s own formidable reputation - it was a complex, intense, and hugely accomplished record. It came from a place of questioning loneliness, too.
In music as in myth, adventurers are forever setting off on journeys, testing themselves. The medieval bards wandered; the Beats did too. Sixties folks imagined not only communes, but the endless road rising before them, a shoulder-slung guitar their only constant companion. (There would be other companions, of course, to sing about.) It’s no small triumph that one of the most intriguing of our contemporary questers should be the sullen, elfin daughter of a baronet.
Brit Award-winning singer-songwriter Laura Marling had to endure a false start followed by an unintended eight-month hiatus before writing and recording her fifth album, Short Movie, scrapping some of the songs that came before it and drawing from her experiences in Los Angeles, where she set up shop for two-and-a-half years (she's in the process of relocating back to the UK). The resulting album sounds like a brave, at times combative, fresh start, not least because of the fact that Marling has revamped her relationship with the guitar by switching mostly to an electric (a semi-hollow body Gibson ES-335, borrowed from her dad). Most striking are a handful of rock-oriented songs — many of which you can actually dance to — with snarling, heavy, tumbling and crackling guitar parts, strings and thickly textured drums, hand drums and percussion.
The fifth album from the artist enticingly described in one US paper as “the pin-up girl of the neo-Brit folk-rock movement” is a curious thing: a record that sounds like a masterpiece at first, but which frays slightly with deeper listening. It’s not the fault of the songs – though Short Movie isn’t quite as strong as the brilliant Once I Was an Eagle, it’s still pretty masterly – but Marling’s voice. A spell spent living in LA has left her wanting not just to bring elements of the Laurel Canyon sound into her music, but also left her employing an obtrusive American accent that at times – as on the sprechgesang of Strange – overwhelms the song.
“Love is some kind of trickery,” sings Laura Marling on her ravishing new album. Elsewhere, she condemns it as a distraction: “Keep your love around me/so I can never know what’s going on,” she sings. Another passage treats it as a burden: “Your love becomes my responsibility,” she sighs, wearily, in “Strange.” They’re not exactly the observations of a swooning romantic.
Laura Marling must wish that life made as much sense to her as songwriting does. She’s still only 25 years old, but the four albums she’s released thus far sound like the product of lifetimes, each one more accomplished and acclaimed than the last.Her fifth, ‘Short Movie’, was born of a sort of existential gap-year ennui. Since the release of 2013’s ‘Once I Was an Eagle’, Marling has drifted in Los Angeles, bought a house in London, retreated from (and returned to) making music, dabbled in mysticism, applied – unsuccessfully – to a poetry course in upstate New York and even, briefly, held down a regular, bills-paying service job, though not necessarily in that order.
Laura Marling is a particularly standoffish singer/songwriter, reserved in interviews and tauntingly prickly in song; a typical line, from A Creature I Don’t Know standout "Sophia", is "I never did say whatever it was you did that day." As she’s grown, she’s moved farther in this direction, away from the plain-spoken vulnerability of Alas, I Cannot Swim into vocals that curl words into secretive murmurs, and lyrics that tiptoe up to confessions then stop just short. Mythology and formal allusions swirl around even her candid moments, assuring that any autobiography is lost in the fog. So it’s a mild shock to hear Marling sing "We shared an apartment on the Upper West Side" toward the beginning of her fifth record Short Movie.
Following the elliptical beauty of 2013’s Once I Was an Eagle, Laura Marling returns with a more focused and direct approach that affirms her independence. The headlines will say she has “plugged in,” but Short Movie isn’t the seismic disruption that suggests. Yes, electric guitar appears throughout, but the biggest differences between this album and the last one lie in structure and tone.
"I'm just a horse with no name," sings Laura Marling on "Warrior" — slyly invoking the 1970s soft-rock hit by America while conjuring a wanderer on an English moor, and teasing a "horse"/"whore" play on words while telling her errant knight to please dismount. It's a flash of lyrical left hooks on a set where the British singer-songwriter goes all Judas, like Dylan before her, recording with electric guitar and broadening her palette without sacrificing her subtly badass folkie persona. As on the striking lead sequence of 2013's Once I Was an Eagle, Marling plays with repeated motifs.
The results of an extended period of isolation in Los Angeles, Laura Marling’s new album – her fifth in seven years – is a sprawling record very much a product of the city that influenced it. With electric guitar to the fore, teaser songs False Hope and the title track suggested a wholly new direction for Marling, but this isn’t strictly the sound of her “going electric”. At times the full band arrangements bring more muscle than we’re used to hearing from her, but songs such as Divine and the closing Worship Me are certainly in the vein of what’s come before.
opinion byBRENDAN FRANK Laura Marling is one of those artists that operate with such consistency and prolificacy that it can be easy to take them for granted. For casual fans, it can devolve into what-have-you-done-for-me-lately syndrome. It isn’t unusual for a singer-songwriter to hit a mid-career slump. What is unusual is to hit the slump before you’re in your mid-20s.
The last Laura Marling record, Once I Was an Eagle, was her third in four years. Like both of its predecessors, it was measured, intelligent and rang out with the confidence of somebody wise well beyond their age. At the same time, though, there was the creeping feeling that Marling had fallen into a little bit of a comfort zone. Granted, she’d already made one remarkable step forward in her still-fledgling career - the leap in maturity and poise between Alas I Cannot Swim and 2010’s I Speak Because I Can is easiest measured in light years - but even where Eagle demonstrated ambition, in opening with a four-song, fifteen-minute suite, for instance, it was bogged down elsewhere, not least by an overlong runtime.
Laura Marling is known for her impeccable acoustic sound, which has drawn comparisons to the likes of Joni Mitchell and Joan Armatrading. Here, on her terrific fifth album, the British singer-songwriter plugs in and injects her songs with some rock brawn, and nothing is lost in translation. In fact, Marling’s deployment of firepower dovetails nicely with her lyrics, as in the urgent restlessness of “False Hope,” where Marling flounders in a blackout for meaning and sleep.
“Love seems to be some kind of trickery,” Laura Marling sings about halfway through “Short Movie,” her intensely searching new album. “Some great thing to which I am a mystery.” She’s strumming an electric guitar against a rock beat, sounding steely and incredulous, unsure about a few things but not, in the end, about herself. Ms. Marling, 25, finds room for a lot of these cleareyed pronouncements on the album, a wary reflection on restlessness and solitude.
Laura Marling has just embarked on another branch of her evolution. One expects nothing less from the famed folk singer, who's personal life has been the centre of her song-writing since her debut album Alas, I Cannot Swim. In the interim between 2013's Once I Was An Eagle and her newest release Short Movie, Marling has had plenty of fodder. This thirteen-track album sees Marling taking her marked brand of folk spiced up with hints of punk style anger, less subtle than on previous records.
Laura Marling arguably hit the high point of her career with 2013's "Once I Was an Eagle." Everything about that album was big — its thicket of acoustic arrangements, its peals of lyrics about heartbreak, its run time (an hour and change). For a follow-up, she's gone smaller, starting with the LP's title of "Short Movie." Though it's not the statement-making brass-ring grab that "Eagle" was, it's certainly more approachable, and maybe even more enjoyable. This is a modal window.
Short Movie is the sound of Laura Marling’s identity crisis. It’s her first album that actually sounds comfortable, and like Marling herself, might not be fully comfortable with that fact. Once I Was An Eagle was a towering record, an intimate yet epic album full of lush, bombastic songs and vocals often feverish in their intensity. But still, Marling and her acoustic guitar were always at the heart of things.
Following in the dusty, sun-baked footsteps of 2013's mesmerizing Once I Was an Eagle, Laura Marling's fifth studio outing feels even more rooted in the California desert, doubling down on the former's penchant for pairing breezy, American west coast mysticism with bucolic, Sandy Denny-era English folk, but with a subtle shift in architecture. Marling's gift for gab and deft finger-picking are still front and center, but with the self-produced Short Movie, she's expanded her sonic palette by plugging in. While by no means a straight-up electric guitar album, Short Movie does bristle with a current of nervy energy, and that coffee-black, post-midnight buzz is the fuel that gives cuts like "False Hope," "Don't Let Me Bring You Down," "Gurdjieff's Daughter," and the hypnotic title track their swagger.
Laura Marling Short Movie (Ribbon Music) Laura Marling's rise as British folk heroine was rapid and well-earned, with three of her first four albums garnering Mercury Prize nominations. Creative burnout then set in as the 25-year-old songwriter moved to L.A., but she re-emerges with some of the darkest, most exploratory material of her career. "I'm taking more risks now, I'm stepping out of line" she declares on "How Can I." Opener "Warrior" rolls with twisted psychedelic folk, atmospheric and harrowing, while "False Hope" bites between Aimee Mann and Sharon Van Etten.
It's hard to believe that, at only 25, British singer/songwriter Laura Marling has released five albums. She's clearly got a lot to write about. Inspired by a soul-searching stint in L.A., her self-produced latest album moves slightly away from the acoustic sound that got her and peers like Noah and the Whale and Mumford and Sons pegged as nouveau-folk revivalists.