ALBUM: Semper Femina – Laura Marling

 

 

Words by Damien Russell

Laura Marling performs at the O2 Institute on Tuesday 14th March, as presented by SJM Concerts/Gigs and Tours. For direct gig info, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here.

Laura Marling, having lived in both the UK and the US, has a breadth of experience to draw on and has undoubtedly been exposed to a wide variety of musical genres, styles and eras. I say ‘undoubtedly’ because it’s all here for the listening in her new album, Semper Femina.

Over the course of Semper Femina we are treated to the jazz and blues undertones of opening track and first single ‘Soothing’, British folk stylings on ‘The Valley’, ‘Always This Way’ and ‘Wild Once’, Southern rock and blues on ‘Wildfire’ and ‘Don’t Pass Me By’ and a definite country twang to ‘Next Time’ and ‘Nouel’.

A wide and varied mix – one that would be easy to make jarring, but Marling flows from track to track without difficulty. Not seamlessly and certainly not in any kind of concept album style, but making the nine tracks feel like an album, not just a collection of songs.

One of the things that helps with that is the well crafted instrumentation; the string section, double bass, harmonies and guitar take turns in the limelight, rising and falling between tracks and making way for the next ‘lead’ in turn. This means that while the styles move quickly, the instrumentation moves more slowly creating a sense of harmony between the tracks. If deliberate (and I see no reason why it wouldn’t be) it’s masterful and great to see real thought put in to making an album in a world of single track downloads.

Of course nothing’s perfect, and while I absolutely appreciate (and support) the artistry and craftsmanship of Semper Femina I couldn’t help but feel that some of the tracks were too long. I hate to be the guy who complains about track length, and I will sit and listen to 7/8 minute songs when the content is there, but some songs felt more like a set sequence of sections repeated just one too many times for me. If we could have lost thirty seconds off a few of the longer tracks and got one more song on the album; that would have been preferred.

When it comes to individual songs, in so many ways, the album opener is the most important and ‘Soothing’ is a fantastic choice for Semper Femina. One of the strongest tracks on the album, it channels a funky vibe that I could only describe as being what I imagine a Morcheeba/Gotye collaboration might be like. A total winner for me.

Contrastingly, the last track on the album, ‘Nothing, Not Nearly’, is jarring and not to my taste. It comes so close to working itself out but still, unfortunately, so far. I found myself ending Semper Femina and playing ‘Soothing’ again just to keep that positive vibe in my mind. And while each track has its own merits the other outstanding song on Semper Femina for me is ‘Wildfire’, which gave me a real Janis Joplin vibe underneath the definite Laura Marling vibe.

Overall Semper Femina a cracking album; in no way do the few bad points outweigh the good. It’s a fantastic demonstration of Laura Marling‘s talent and feels like considerable effort and thought have gone into the bigger picture, as well as each individual song. Semper Femina is certainly a record that will stay in my playlist and I can’t wait to see some of these tracks brought to life on the O2 Institute stage.

‘Soothing’ – Laura Marling (directed by Laura Marling)

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Laura Marling performs at the O2 Institute on Tuesday 14th March, as presented by SJM Concerts/Gigs and Tours. For direct gig info, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here.

Semper Femina by Laura Marling was released on 10th March 2017 by More Alarming Records via Kobalt Music Recordings. For more on Laura Marling, visit www.lauramarling.com

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