When Laura Marling first came onto the scene with Alas, I Cannot Swim in 2008 she certainly made a splash. She was just 18, blonde, small, almost bird-like, with a gentle voice that took you away on the breeze. She won many hearts and a Mercury Prize nomination.
Not one to rest on her laurels, Short Movie is her fifth album, and it’s easy to forget that she is still only 25. She seems to be pushing hard to shake off the young girl image though, having dyed her hair brown and cut it short. And you can feel the fight coming off her words throughout this album, it gives off an aroma of defiance:
“I can’t be your horse anymore/You’re not the warrior I’ve been looking for” she states in the opening track ‘Warrior’ – and you know she’s preparing for battle. She lowers her voice throughout, and does more singing that veers closer to talking, offering less of the traditional folk whimsy that she originally became known for. She’s not “fucking around” as she says in ‘Don’t Let Me Bring You Down’.
This Marling is the cynical and wisened Marling, she’s been burned and now she’s having to armour-up. Funny how close those two words are, armour and amour. It’s a thin line as they say.
You can see what she’s trying to do, she’s striving to find an original voice – and while I admire her for that, the talking/singing in a strange American sort of accent, like in ‘Gurdjieffs’s Daughter’ can be grating at times. I think that’s either something you will like, or you won’t.
There are gentler songs such as ‘How Can I’ - which has a very American feel about it – and she’s “going back east” - not sure she means Essex. She’s still battling though:
“I’m taking more risks now/I’m stepping out of line/I put up my fists now/Until I get what’s mine”
It feels like she still has a storm inside her, which almost needs to die down before she can settle properly in her voice. There are elements of the original Marling in there, and while of course no-one wants to go backwards, it just feels she has perhaps lost too much of herself. In short, I’m not sure she needs to fight so hard.