By Callum Thornhill (@Cal_Thornhill)
Laura Marling has returned with sixth album Semper Femina. Latin for ‘always a woman,’ Marling’s delicacy and charismatic charm has always been evident in her previous work, but this is a record holding something more. An ensemble of tales cut down into three to five-minute tracks sounds like the norm for songwriting, but Marling has crafted an album that exceeds the norm.
Throughout the creation process of this record, Marling has made her directorial debut with the video for Soothing, produced the record with Blake Mills and released it on her own label More Alarming Records.
Following on from Marling’s podcast series, Reversal of the Muse, where she questioned feminine creativity alongside Haim and Dolly Parton to name just two, Semper Femina carries on this theme across nine abstract, non-definitive tracks. It is an accumulation of what has stood before put together in a record that will be looked back on in several years as one of the most important records of the decade.
The questioning is portrayed in Don’t Pass Me By with the lyrics “Can you love me if I put up a fight” and “Is it something you make a habit of, that not something I need from love right now” give a journey of empowerment and no longer needing a (assumed) man to carry on with life.
Next Time, however, juxtaposes Don’t Pass Me By. Reversing the themes and mellowly singing the optimistic lyrics of “I’ll do better next time” at the beginning. It is a reminiscent track where by the end she has seemingly accepted defeat via a pleading mid-section. The signature plucky guitar and echoey arrangements are core to Semper Femina and create a backbone to the record – not that anything else would be expected from the Hampshire singer-songwriter.
There are moments of rawness throughout; notably in Wild Once where Marling’s authentic, bold accent comes through and you are briefly invited into her mind and memories. Dropping it again now and then throughout, it offers different perspectives and different characters in the songs.
The moody ballad of Nothing, Not Really closes Semper Femina. Quick, snappy relatable lyrics pour from Marling’s alongside the emphatic instrumentation, which creates a mesmerising sound leaves the nine track record begging to be extended, but in some ways this gives the sense of mystery that was always going to come from Laura Marling’s story telling methods.
The sound of footsteps shuffling and a microphone being placed down at the end of the record shows that the job is done. Marling has completed a record of mystery, passion and allure. It is now time for her to leave and for you to now take it and perceive in however you want.