‘Short Movie’ could, with ease, have picked up where Laura Marling left off on her acclaimed prior albums: depicting the folk tales of a timeless Joni Mitchell/ sea-witch hybrid. But that would be the easy route, not the interesting one.
A transatlantic shift has rejuvenated Marling’s guitar strums, but the real centerpiece of this album – of any Laura Marling album – is her voice. Tracks like ‘How Can I’ showcase her rich emotive vocal combination of old-soul hoarseness and soaring syrupy folk. It’s a commanding voice, capable of simultaneously mourning the end of a relationship and kicking their arse to the kerb, half laughing on ‘Strange’: “I don’t love you… I’m pretty sure that you know.” The track harkens back to Marling’s previous work; confrontational and accusatory, but never without an underlying sense of humour, and of course featuring a head-bobbing chorus fit for any long summer car journey.
Other notable standout tracks include ‘Warrior’, where the haunting reverberations of Marling’s guitar make for a curious sense of uneasiness and empowerment. Marling is both Thelma AND Louise, flying off into the Grand Canyon in her semi-American experimentation with sound.
Marling is consistently and faultlessly chucking beautiful songs out into the world like it requires no effort at all. ‘Short Movie’ makes for as good a listen as her previous two albums, which by Marling’s output standard is a compliment indeed. It’s interesting, then, how thematically preoccupied Marling is with embracing transformation, singing on ‘Gurdjieff’s Daughter’: “Never give orders, just to be obeyed / Never consider yourself or others, without knowing that you’ll change.”
[Rhys Harper @RhysRHarper]