For fans of: Mumford and Sons, Joni Mitchell, Johnny Flynn, Noah and the Whale
Laura Marling is back with her fifth studio album, Short Movie, an impressive feat for a 25-year-old. Marling was raised in a musical family, and she released her first album when she was only sixteen. As a result, her pieces reflect every facet of her life, as she transitioned from a precocious young folk musician to a more blossomed and realized artist. One of the most impressive things about her is how the listener can hear in her voice how she lost some of her innocence. On this album, she sacrifices some of the folk mystique for a gritty, rock feel.
This album feels like an extension of Once I Was An Eagle, released in 2013. She stuck to the anger and darkness that made that album so stunning. However, instead of mythologizing and telling fables, she reaches to her own experience and allows her listeners a more private view of her life. After the success of her last album, Marling ran away to America, and tried to renounce her “free-wheeling troubadour” ways. She ended up where all lost souls, dreamers, and vagrants do – in California. But according to an interview with the New York Times, she couldn’t give up music entirely. Eventually, she abandoned the sun and moved to New York City.
Marling’s always used metaphors and stories to hold a veil over her own feelings. The most intimate moments, not seen since “New Romantic,” of her songwriting career are on this album – displayed in nearly all the tracks. It’s refreshing to hear her take part in her own story, and admit (many) of her own fallacies, instead of displaying fantasies and myths. True events swirl in her magnitude of fables and stories, like in “False Hope,” when she sings about her own longings and fury at herself, against the backdrop of Hurricane Sandy.
The spareness of the instruments is reminiscent of Marling’s California journey – started on her third album, when she sings longingly of Salinas. She uses stark imagery of horses and warriors (in “Warrior”) to mirror the sound she strives for. In “Easy,” she sings of the Joshua trees and Santa Cruz. “Howl at the moon, I’ll come find you,” she begs in “Howl.” She always was a lone wolf.
In “I Feel Your Love,” Marling returns to a similar sound to the previous tracks she’s released. Old fans will rejoice at the similarities, instead of despairing of all this rock’n’roll Marling is trying out.
The last few tracks are where Marling picks up speed. “Gurdijeff’s Daughter” is a cheeky admonition to herself for falling in love with the mystique and a reminder not to be impressed by smoke. “Divine” completes a U-turn, where she hesitantly falls in love in a simple, yet beautiful way. “I tried not to freeze before you thaw,” she sings. “How Can I” is a warrior’s cry, gorgeous in its strength. “I’m taking more risks now / I’m stepping out of line / I put up my fists now, until I get what’s mine,” she tells herself.
In Short Movie, Marling resolves all of her turbulent feelings, and lends herself a name for her album. It’s interesting, because unlike Once I Was An Eagle, which conveniently flowed into a literal short movie, Marling does not have the connectivity on this effort. But instead, she leaves us with vibrant energy and resounding emotions, more probing than any of her previous works and more beautiful for the chord they strike within her.
Recommended listening: “How Can I,” “Short Movie,” “I Feel Your Love,” and “Easy”