Laura Marling, Semper Femina

British folk singer-songwriter Laura Marling is releasing her latest album Semper Femina on the 10th March.

By Jane Howkins.

   We’ve been looking forward to Semper Femina for a while. Laura Marling is an artist who has persistently changed her musical style on each album, with her last two (Once, and Short Movie) having been especially praised due to this. Semper Femina is different in this regard, managing to both move Marling’s sound forward and take it back to her roots. That may sound counterproductive, but it’s something that works very well, and this is a wonderful collection of songs.

When we first heard single Soothing, we were intrigued by what we heard. It’s very different from anything the singer-songwriter has ever done, with electronic beats bending against smooth strings and Marling’s honey-laced vocal stylings. It’s a really great track, and we were expecting the rest of the album to be similar. Instead, the rest of the songs sound a little like a retrospective of Marling’s early work. There are elements of all of her albums here, so there’s definitely something for everyone.

Don’t Pass Me By is one of our favourites, bringing back the electric guitar that so populated fifth release Short Movie and managing to turn it into a slightly creepy, bluesy tune. Whilst we enjoyed Marling’s last two albums, the darkness that inhabited her first three releases so well seemed to be a little lacking, but Don’t Pass Me By has that wonderful eerie hint to it that we love so much.

Always This Way is another little chunk of brilliance. It’s rather simple (none of the songs here are overly complex), but then again it doesn’t need to be any bigger. There’s a genius in not going overboard and knowing when a song is perfected, and here it seems clear that Marling has finally found that line where nothing feels forced. There were occasions in the past when Marling’s need to change felt like a songwriter trying to find her way, and whilst this led to some very good songs, it left some of her albums feeling a little bloated. Here it sound completely natural, and the fact that there are only nine tracks on Semper Femina is perhaps telling.

This is the sound of an artist finally becoming at peace with herself, and it’s wonderful. There are elements of each stage of Marling’s career present on her sixth release, and combined Semper Femina sounds like the album she’s always wanted to make.