Laura Marling – Song For Our Daughter
Laura Marling’s surprise-released new album is full of quiet, revealing and comforting songs. Elliott Simpson reviews.
It’s remarkable to think that Laura Marling is now eight albums deep into her career. Since releasing her Mercury Prize-nominated debut back in 2008, she’s released a steady stream of albums – each better than the last. Her last two albums, 2017’s folk-laden Semper Femina and 2018’s LUMP, a more experimental collaboration with Tunng’s Mike Lindsay, showed her as an artist at the height of her songwriting power.
Song For Our Daughter, announced only a few days before its release, feels like a natural continuation of Semper Femina. It continues that album’s exploration of womanhood and female identity, though approaches the topic from a different angle.
As the album’s title hints, maternal relationships are the main focus here. For many of its songs, Marling adopts a motherly role. On Alexandra she’s chasing the whereabouts of the song’s protagonist, while on tracks like Only The Strong and Song For Our Daughter she passes down advice and experience. On some songs she flips the perspective, such as Blow By Blow, which explores her relationship with her own mother.
It’s one of her most restrained albums musically and all of the songs are presented in a stripped-back form. Marling’s vocals and guitar-playing are often given nothing more than strings and backing vocals for accompaniment, with bass and drums appearing sparingly. It’s an album that has little room for showiness; the album’s single guitar solo on closing track ‘For You’ even sounds surprisingly restrained.
It’s a decision that mostly pays off, thanks to the quality of the songwriting. Marling has never felt more vulnerable and open than on these songs, digging into her own experiences to pass down advice to the listener. The bare The End Of The Affair is a cryptic tale of a relationship that can’t work, while ‘Blow By Blow’ is a bruised piano ballad about hiding away from the outside world.
Song For Our Daughter’s quiet intimacy acts as a double-edged sword though. Though there are no particularly weak songs featured here, things do get a little one-note towards the album’s end. It definitely would’ve benefited from one or two more energetic songs to vary the mood.
A fiercely strummed folk-rock song, the excellent Held Down is one of the album’s few outliers. It’s Song For Our Daughter’s most urgent moment and stands toe-to-toe with the best songs from Marling’s back catalogue. On it, Marling manages to beautifully walk the line between fierce and vulnerable, lamenting the struggle of both wanting to be needed and wanting to be free. The song borders on anthemic during its soaring chorus, which is layered with angelic backing vocals.
Song For Our Daughter is another gorgeous and moving album from one of the UK’s finest songwriters, and the ideal balm for our troubled times. It’s perhaps Marling’s quietest and most cryptic release – one that asks you to spend plenty of time with it.