On my first listen through Laura Marling‘s seventh solo studio album, Song for our Daughter, I realised how much I’d missed her music of late. While her creative output has continued in recent years, with both Short Movie and Semper Femina picking up critical acclaim, it was 2013’s Once I Was an Eagle that never left me, alongside those thriving years before. Thankfully, this fresh set of songs proves that Marling’s natural talent for songwriting hasn’t waned in any form, it has expanded, matured and continues with accomplished confidence, and we couldn’t be more lucky to have it arrive in these unusual times.
Song for our Daughter maintains her seemingly unstoppable growth as a songwriter, and story-teller, with a beautiful, hugely welcomed album release. In a time where every other artist seems to be pushing their work away to another day, Laura Marling has stepped forward with an early release, as it was originally slated for August, and blown us away once again.
This album has rippled in after the waves of many changes in her life, from stepping away from her old management and out there on her own, maybe like she was at the very start, in order to find herself again. This has noticeably helped, and given her time, to her create a character and a story, where she’s not repeating what she’s done before, and the result sounds effortless but also packed full of imagery and creativity.
Returning to Producer Ethan Johns for the fourth time, Song for Our Daughter is layered with beautiful, ethereal movements that reach out with warmth and ease into the current unusual situation. Opening with Alexandra, inspired by Leonard Cohen‘s Alexandra Leaving, asks the question ‘What did Alexandra know..?‘ continuing that story and developing it further with wonderful simplicity. It’s an equally smooth and strong opener that sets up Held Down as an absolute belter of a second track. Released as the lead single, it floats into the scene and bursts into life during the chorus. Marling has an remarkable gift which continues to send shivers down the spine, as her lyrics and melody compliment each other like a sunburst through early summer clouds. It also offers a memory of those early Metronomy harmonies, all of which are welcomed.
Strange Girl follows with more open, entertaining storytelling. I presume it’s a letter to a child from her future self, or maybe back to herself in retrospect, and has a fun Bob Dylan-esque vibe to it. While Marling has always had her talent for an encapsulating story, this is more mature than those early sounds, despite the fact she’s somehow only 30, like all the history has moulded and folded into the songs, which is then amplified with confidence, truth and effortlessness.
Song for Our Daughter also immerses us in her own backing vocals alongside sweeping, glorious strings from Rob Moose (who has worked with Bon Iver and The National) that heighten the stirring moments, there’s so much beauty here. We’re also offered self-confessed Paul McCartney influence throughout as well, as she breaks down the music to the basics, keeping it simple but also making it emotionally powerful.
Only the Strong is self-explanatory, but the melody and the music takes you with her and into the world she’s creating. Piano ballad Blow by Blow delves into reflecting on a regretful relationship or argument, that went beyond reach, and as the stories continue to be shared, we’re taken deeper along these adventures inside sound, as they pull you in and, let’s face it, you’re happy to not put up a struggle.
And as the album comes to a close, Hope we Meet Again is exactly as the title suggests, story wise, but it’s the natural reflections and spoken lyrics that help us feel the moment. You’re there with her, in the studio, in the basement of her home, as the song evolves. Interestingly, she describes this work as a counterbalance or, maybe, more of an unplanned, deeper understand of the situation that’s right in front of us at this point in time, saying “It’s strange to watch the facade of our daily lives dissolve away, leaving only the essentials; those we love and our worry for them. An album, stripped of everything that modernity and ownership does to it, is essentially a piece of me, and I’d like for you to have it.”
Song for Our Daughter offers everything you could want from a songwriter, where we’re invited in and offered a piece of herself, and her mind, to investigate and explore and, even more importantly, find sections of ourselves amongst the tales themselves.