This has been a week of counting down all of Laura Marling’s songs in celebration of this year’s release of her seventh album, Songs For Our Daughter. To wrap things up with a nice little bow, let’s take a deeper dive into her latest effort.
Marling’s latest album came as somewhat of a surprise, maybe as much for her as for us seeing as she brought the release forward by a good few months in order to offer people some kind of distraction during the coronavirus epidemic. She started things off with the release of lead single Held Down the week previous, which was a tantalising little taste of what was to come. That nonchalant ‘yeah’ as her warm guitar announces the beginning of the song was a great way to welcome us back into her world. In fact, the album itself feels Marling herself is revisiting where she came from. While this is a concept album revolving around an imagined daughter, the songs sound like some of the most personal Marling has released and are much more in line with her early work on I Speak Because I Can, rather than the meandering nature of Once I Was An Eagle, the rocky edge of Short Movie or the literary tone of Semper Femina.
Songs is a hard-hitting album, one that doesn’t shy away from a tear-jerking moment, but one that doesn’t wallow in self-pity. While the songs may have sad themes, there is no overwrought drama here, Marling instead opting for an understated, elegant approach. The run of tracks from Only The Strong through to The End Of The Affair might be the best run of songs Marling’s ever produced, and as you might know from my countdown, that’s really saying something. I’ve already said a lot about Blow By Blow there, but it really does need highlighting as one of the best songs of the year – it shines in its simplicity, and it cuts through its passivity. This is not Marling desperately holding onto something, a story we’ve all heard so many times before in music, or furious at the other party (another common theme), but instead accepting that something is over and that it’s time to move on. There is nothing else left to do.
Sonically, this is a rather subdued affair – there isn’t ever too much going on – it’s mainly Marling and her guitar with some accompaniment, and this really helps the songs shine – Marling’s strength has always been in her songwriting, and without too much heavy instrumentation weighing them down, these songs really get their chance to breathe in the space. You want to lie down in the grass on a sunny day and listen to this music, not because it’s particularly summery, but because it feels like Marling has really let the light into her music, and you need to do the same when you listen.
There are no bad tracks here – the songs at the beginning and end may feel a little weaker in comparison to that brilliant middle section, but that is only due to how fantastic that run is – meaning this is an album you really can listen to from beginning to end without getting tired or bored of it. Marling has always been a talent, but this really feels like the culmination of her talent, a retread of the sounds she explored early in her career on I Speak Because I Can and Alas I Cannot Swim but augmented by the storytelling and sounds she’s picked up on her journey through more challenging styles on her later albums. Songs For Our Daughter is a triumph, and will undoubtedly go down as one of, if not the, best album of the year.