Laura Marling releases ‘Short Movie’
Marc Drake | Thursday, March 26, 2015
Though British folk singer-songwriter Laura Marling ended her last album, “Once I Was an Eagle,” with the words, “Thank you naïveté for failing me again,” her new album indicates a serious growth in maturity. Shedding this naïveté that once plagued her, Marling makes the next step in her musical evolution on an album, “Short Movie,” that trades the soft ring of an acoustic guitar for a full band that backs Marling on electric guitar.
The album comes after a two-year hiatus from music, in which Marling left her home in London and moved to Los Angeles. During this period, Marling experimented with various other artistic media and questioned her commitment to music. She even went so far as to anonymously apply to poetry programs, yet tasted rejection, learning for the first time what loneliness truly felt like.
“You feel unwatched in LA, which is nice, but then that becomes not nice all of the sudden,” Marling describes in an interview with The Guardian. “You feel unlooked-after. Even the relentless sun. It feels like even God isn’t looking after you. I’m not actually religious, but he’s not even putting the protection of clouds above your head. You start feeling really exposed.”
The album begins in typical Marling fashion with “Warrior,” a track with quiet, almost secondary instrumentation — with Marling expressing her disinterest in a would-be lover. Similar to other albums, a discussion of relationships is present at least in passing on almost all songs on the album. However, the album takes a quick turn with the drum driven track “False Hope.” Marling’s two-year hiatus shines through in this track as she asks listeners, “Is it still okay if I don’t know how to be alone?”
Questions related to loneliness and identity are at the heart of “Short Movie.” Lyrically, the album represents a maturation for the 25-year-old songwriter. After recording her first album at age 16, Marling has grown up under the watchful eye of her fans. “Short Movie” represents a return to young adulthood, and the album allows Marling to suspend her premature preoccupation with the worries of adulthood and comfortably exist within her own skin at her own age.
Thematically, the album explores some issues that old fans will be familiar with: discussions of heartbreak and restlessness still color “Short Movie.” However, this album is markedly different from previous albums by the British folk singer. Her departure from the soaring vocals layered over simple acoustic guitar melodies in exchange for more complex music arrangements is the most noticeable change, but the content of the album also shows a substantial change. On songs like “Easy,” Marling weighs the benefits of being alone and its importance for self-growth, as well as aging. Although the songs are less congruent than her previous album that unfold as almost one continuous track, “Short Movie” features some connected moments. “Gurdjieff’s Daughter” and “Divine” unfold as if they are two halves of the same song. Bright guitar riffs that appear on “Walk Alone” and the title track connect the beginning and the end of the album. Both confessional and cryptic, Marling is able to paint a story while still remaining tight-lipped about the particulars of her life. The result is lyrics that are unquestionably Marling but also act as an invitation to share in her struggles.
Listeners familiar with her previous work may be disappointed by this release — admittedly, I was initially dissatisfied with the titular single when it was released. However, the album certainly has grown on me, and it appears to be a balanced step forward: adventurous enough to garner attention and keep former listeners interested but similar enough to her previous work to satisfy those apprehensive to change.