Laura Marling returned last month with her seventh solo effort, Song For Our Daughter. We take a look at the singer-songwriter’s latest record.
Words by Declan O’Dwyer
Songs For Our Daughter is the seventh full-length solo album from British singer-songwriter, Laura Marling. It’s three years since her last solo release, 2017’s Semper Femina, not withstanding her work on side project, Lump who released an album in 2018.
Describing what this album is about in her own words:
“Trauma and an enduring quest to understand what it is to be a woman in this society.”
The songs are written to an imaginary child, “offering her all the confidences and affirmations I found so difficult to provide myself.’’
In that sense it can be viewed as a concept album. Marling is also currently studying psyco-analysis which could be a blueprint for this work.
The album opens with ‘Alexandra’. This is a percussion driven track, which also has a finger-picking style to the fore and features some subtle electric guitar. The lyrics question what type of man Alexandra’s former lover was, whilst giving her more an air of mystery. “Where did Alexandra go?” The closing refrain however might possibly be more sinister – “What did Alexandra know?”
‘Held Down’ begins with an atmospheric backdrop before an acoustic guitar can be heard. Her own backing vocals are echo-laden and act successfully as the harmonies. The electric guitar has a ghostly type feel. I like the drumming on this track and indeed throughout the whole album. It’s the best track here.
‘Strange Girl’ is the first track where we can presume lyrically she is speaking to her fictitious daughter, who is a little different, a bit left of centre to her peers and is finding it hard to fit in. She reacts to this by cutting off the people closest to her, while the songwriter is trying to reassure her that it’s going to be all right. In reality it could be applied to many young people who are trying to find out who they are but aren’t quite there yet.
“Cut off all relations… ‘cause you could not stand your friends… announce yourself a socialist… to have something to defend… oh, young girl, please… don’t bullshit to me…”
Musically, the intro has African style drumming and it’s funkier than what’s come before. Marling adopts a different singing style here.
‘Only the Strong’ has a toe-tapping feel to it. The guitar playing is reminiscent of ‘Blackbird’ by The Beatles. Her singing is very strong here. While on this track she is offering tough love (Only the strong survive) in comparison to the previous one, where she was trying to convince that it would all work out okay.
The piano led, ‘Blow by Blow’ has a mournful tone. Lyrically it’s regretful, whilst I don’t want to use the word negatively as those thoughts are also part of life. It’s possible to see how it would be viewed that way however.
“I feel a fool… so do you… for believing it could work out… like somethings do…”
On ‘Song for Our Daughter’, this acoustic-led track features gentle strumming, which pushes her vocals right to the front. She is telling her daughter to both be and think for herself. On this she also references her partner.
“Lately I’ve been thinking… about our daughter growing old… all of the bullshit that she might be told…”
‘Fortune’ is a more lo-fi recording. The gentle strumming merges well with the musical arrangement.
Both ‘The End of the Affair’ and ‘Hope We Meet Again’ drag a little for me. Whilst in no way bad tracks, a change of mood was needed before we came to the final track ‘For You’. This features a male voice that is singing in harmony and this is welcome, as a change in direction was needed, giving more of a pop sensibility.
It’s a pretty track. It’s got a 60’s girl-group, tinged with gospel-type feel. It wouldn’t be too far out of place on a more contemporary, O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack.
On this album Laura Marling cements her reputation, for this writer anyway as one of the finest songwriters to come out of the UK in the last decade or so. It’s a strong piece of work.
Songs worth putting on repeat: ‘Held Down’, ‘For You’ and ‘Only the Strong’
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