Whilst a lot of things have been postponed, held off indefinitely, rescheduled or even cancelled due to the current coronavirus pandemic, a select few things have been brought forward. One of them is Laura Marling's latest album 'Song For Our Daughter' which was due for release later this year. Via an Instagram post on April 5th, Marling announced that she had decided to bring the release forward, hoping "that at the very least (it) might entertain, and at its best, provide some sense of union."
Talking to Lauren Laverne on BBC6Music the morning after the news dropped Marling explained: "The future's pretty uncertain and I also felt a bit of responsibility, well, to offer anything I could offer." Fellow artists have been getting creative in many ways; doing online gigs, listening evenings, even keep-fit classes with their fans. Laura had already been doing in-depth, enlightening guitar tutorials but has now decided, due to our current circumstances that there was "no reason to hold back."
The album's figurative title is based on a book 'Letter To Our Daughter' by Maya Angelou and sees Marling "now at the ripe old age of thirty", as she puts it, offering advice to her younger self. The new album comes twelve years after her stunning debut 'Alas I Cannot Swim', and not quite two years after her collaborative album with Tunng's Mike Lindsay. She wrote 'Song For Our Daughter' three years ago and both this and Lump's second album, due for release early next year, were recorded at the same time.
The Brit Award-winning, triple Mercury Prize and one time Grammy nominee would like us "to hear a strange story about the fragmentary, nonsensical experience of trauma and an enduring quest to understand what it is to be a woman in this society." This narrative follows on cohesively from her last solo album 'Semper Femina', an album that explored, amongst other things, femininity.
Marling's new 10-track album opens with 'Alexandra', a musing on what has became of the protagonist. The sweeping soundscape rises throughout as the intensity builds with Marling's want increasing with each chorus: "I need to know, where does Alexandra go, where did Alexandra go?". 'Held Down', the lead single from the album, follows with some fabulously breezy layered harmonies. The sound is wide open, up-front, vibrant and fresh. With a simple percussive beat and guitar accompaniment, Marling gives her perspective on an unrequited love and failing relationship: "It's a cruel kinda twist that you'd leave like this, just drop my wrist and say, that's us done."
After the uninhibited, almost extrovert opening played out through the introductory three tracks, the album takes a inward turn and becomes ever more reflective. The gentle lilt of the Simon And Garfunkel flavoured 'Only The Strong' softly meanders by with a hint of strings as Laura stretches her vocal notes to great effect. At mid-point, Marling delivers up a terrific, sublime surprise in the form of piano ballad 'Blow By Blow'. There is no familiar guitar to be heard, just Marling's exquisite voice backed by a restrained piano and subtle string arrangement. This is Laura Marling taking a slightly different direction to her norm and it works wonderfully well. The balance and production produces a song full of tenderness and vulnerability.
The title track of Laura Marling's new album doesn't fall as far from the tree but it is no less affecting and does capture the very character of the album's subjectivity as well as a 'Me Too' perspective. 'The End Of The Affair' pares everything back still further with arguably the most minimal of arrangements on the new record. Marling's divine voice and a understated guitar are all that's needed to deliver a very emotive, at times raw, account. Concluding the album are 'Hope We Meet Again' and 'For You', two tracks that seem to be in some way more content and at one with their lot. The sometimes spoken word lyrics that Marling imparts on the first track and the dueted harmonies in the second are equally delightful.
'Song For Our Daughter' is a very welcome surprise that further cements Laura Marling's standing as one of the finest singer-songwriters of her generation. In extraordinary times, Laura Marling has delivered an extraordinary album.