Review: Lump by Lump

Lump by LumpCan you imagine what a whimsical Laura Marling song sounds like? It’s not a farfetched proposition, come to think of it: there was some degree of that in her earlier work, but she quickly moved towards the “mature for her age” proposition, coupled with her recent dive into Americana in her last couple of records. That makes Lump – her project with Tunng’s Mike Lindsay – refreshing, if not exhilarating. It’s not because of a change of background, although Mike’s ambient, eerie production makes for some curiously twisted choices. The best thing about this project is how no one artist dominates. Laura dives into her more surreal side, with songs that are both dreamy and jagged at the same time. Mike shifts towards the quiet and loopy, taking advantage of the new voice in his toolkit. Both push and pull each other, resulting in a quick shot of… well… they do say Lump is an entity of its own (it’s the furry monster on the album cover) and they’re just assisting it, and yes, that is how it sounds like. A bit curious, a bit whimsical (down to the final track, which is essentially Laura reading album credits – the ambient track I did not know I needed) and a force on its own. [NB]4/5

Review: Semper Femina by Laura Marling

Semper Femina by Laura MarlingThe gaps between Laura Marling’s albums are getting longer – it’s been roughly two years since Semper Femina, her latest, and its predecessor, the electric Short Movie. The distance has meant there’s no clear sonic thread between the two records – you can even say this new record is underwhelming considering how much more subdued it is. But, for a record that spends its time exploring womanhood (and not necessarily from that liberal “woman!” perspective like most lazily ascribe vaguely feminist works) it’s enchanting. Laura pulls back but reserves the tricks to the occasional twirl here and there, and the impact is pretty strong: slinky, even funky songs abound, from the launcher “Soothing” to perhaps the highlight, album closer “Nothing, Not Nearly”, which manages to sum up her already expected sage wisdom by creeping up on us. Now, again, Semper Femina is not a big album. But it doesn’t have to be, and wisely, it isn’t. [NB]4/5

Review: Short Movie by Laura Marling

Short Movie by Laura MarlingThe fact that this is 25-year-old Laura Marling’s fifth album should tell you a lot a bit about what kind of artist she is. A listen to any of those four records should fill in the blanks. The English folkie’s always been more mature than her age suggests, and with each album her explorations of growing up, finding your way and figuring things out get this sheen of wisdom. Short Movie continues the trend: the album was made as she found her way through America, pondering whether she should quit music altogether. She didn’t; the result is an unusually charged record that, while noticeably different from predecessor Once I Was An Eagle, builds from it. It’s not exactly the Laura-goes-electric album, but songs like “False Hope” have an undeniable ripple that suggests angst and resistance, and more so than her previous work – but in the lyrics, both a yearning for the old and an acceptance of the new. We’ve always known Laura to go her own way and defy expectations; Short Movie puts this front and center. [NB] | 4/5

“No, I can’t give you up.”

“Short Movie” by Laura Marling | Yep, Laura is still at it. It almost felt like she was taking a break from music, if not quitting it altogether, which is a shame considering how prolific she’s been – four albums and she’s just 24. And now, her fifth, Short Movie, announced last night, and slated to make its way to us in March. I’ve been using the term “pastoral” a bit – in my review for alt-J’s latest album, in this blog’s case – and that’s what I also think with this new single. Granted, it’s not very far up Laura’s field – Once I Was An Eagle, her fourth, also played with quiet, albeit with mixed results – but there’s a whimsical sound that plays nicely with the defiant lyrics, in a roundabout way. Of course I’m excited for this. Let’s see where we end up next. [NB]

Review: Once I Was An Eagle by Laura Marling

Once I Was An Eagle by Laura MarlingFor her fourth (fourth!) album, Laura Marling has moved to California and gone full-on Joni Mitchell. The end result is a mixed bag that’s left me both enthralled and bored. Once I Was An Eagle sticks to the same formula, only more sparse, save for some West Coast-y licks and rolls, and an all-around American-ness in her sound – not that she was parochially British in the first place. But, unlike in her previous albums, where her songs are often more of third-person narratives, Laura is all about her, her, (I think) her, from the more pronounced emphasis on her guitar, to the first four tracks that together comprise a 15-minute suite of heartbreak, and the standout “Where Can I Go?”. However, the album just seems to drone on – it’s over an hour long – and it loses steam by the time the final tracks roll in. I don’t know, I have a feeling she tried to incorporate all that she’s ingested in America and bring it all out as soon as possible. A little more focus would’ve done wonders. | 3/5