Wednesday, 29 April 2020

MUSIC REVIEW: Laura Marling: Song For Our Daughter


I’m listening to this on my daughter’s 28th birthday. I am 53. Laura Marling is 30 and this concept album is written for a hypothetical child, offering advice on how to negotiate life’s heartaches from a mother who has learned some difficult lessons through hard experience.

These ten, short ballads (Marling doesn’t beat about the bush – there are no long intros & it’s straight into lyrics, with some songs barely lasting three minutes) have vocal echoes of Carole King, Karen Carpenter, Suzanne Vega, Joni, Judi Tzuke, Beth Orton. Starting with her Cohen-inspired Alexandria, musing on what makes a muse (‘What kind of woman gets to love you?’) moving through Only the Strong, with it’s early ‘70s feminist vibe (‘Love is a sickness cured by time’), I feel like I’ve been here before.

Polished production values render this Marling’s most musically accessible album – and do stay for the beautiful arrangements with plaintive, reflective piano, strings, beautiful choir harmonies (though I personally missed the meat of percussion) and for those painful, melancholy-tinged lyrics – of getting your fingers burned, of trusting, then being let down. It’s also Marling’s most fleshed out and rounded album, but the songs are still light on their feet - elegantly & gracefully executed; for me though, often the narratives are left open-ended and meandering.

The reviews I’ve read so far from the national media are understandably adoring. I’m going to be the pernickety voice of dissent somewhat & say that I find the album to be a little too perfect, too hermetically sealed. I’d love to see Marling return to the topic of mothers and children in the future – particularly with any gritty insight gained as a parent – and for her to re-visit the lines on the title track, “Lately I’ve been thinking about our daughter growing old/All of the (**) that she might be told”.

This album is an exercise in projecting and imagination and maybe I’m an old maternal husk but I find the album too fey & other-worldly to be satisfying as any reflection on parenthood. Still any criticisms will bounce off Marling’s work like Teflon and it will no doubt inspire and provide succour for a different, younger female fan demographic. Daughters not mothers. It’s also another chapter in Marling’s fascinating evolution as a singer-songwriter.

Reviewer - Tracy Ryan
on - 28/4/20

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