Album of the Week: Laura Marling, 'Semper Femina'


Laura Marling, 'Semper Femina'
Laura Marling, 'Semper Femina' (More Alarming Records/Kobalt Music Recordings)
Mark Wheat - Album of the Week: Laura Marling, 'Semper Femina'
Download MP3
| 00:01:02

Laura Marling honed her talents in the crucible of the same London folk scene as Mumford and Sons. She seemed to benefit from the association; as we told the story of Mumford's rise, Marling was another example of that particular creative moment.

Marling rode that folkie wave with her first three albums, garnering critical support and going Top 10 in the U.K., enough to take her around the world. She seemed to like visiting America and decided to stay here for a while — in fact, taking time away from music to try to be a yoga teacher in Los Angeles!

"I make my own way, so at the end of the day at least I can say that my debts have been paid," Marling sings on her latest album, Semper Femina; in interviews, Marling has described the need as an introvert to get away from the confines of any scene and find her place, alone. Now 27, those folk roots have been tinged with the lilt of the Cali canyon. A Joni Mitchell-like atmosphere pervades the record, a concise nine songs, all between four and five minutes. But there's also a touch of Patti Smith's spark, with a hint of Kate Bush's accent in places!?

It could've been a very soothing album; "Soothing" is the title of the lead track that we've been playing already. The spare acoustic guitar and lovely strings employed there make a perfect bed for Marling's gorgeous voice. You feel she could stay in this groove forever and it would be a delight, but she takes aim at our complacency every now and then by twisting our expectations of that sound. She suddenly swears — twice in one song! Then there's a few fidelity issues which stand out as glitches in paradise. She inverts your usual take on a song by firm pronouns making their plot ambiguous, and then a crazy electric-guitar solo comes in to scorch the final song.

Semper Femina translates to "Always Woman," and apparently this expression is inked on Laura Marling's leg, so it feels like this album is a mission statement. All the characters appear to be women, except that "Mean Pappa." And "Nouel" is a real friend who inspired some of the writing. On the song "Next Time," Marling sings "It feels like they taught us to ignore it … diligently" and "I can't close my eyes while the world around us dies."

It's on "Wild Once," song six, where she suddenly starts using a posh British accent, although done deliberately badly as if by an American actor; bravo! It also serves to twist the meaning of being "wild," for me as a Brit anyway. I'd noticed that she'd taken on Americanisms like "Momma and poppa" references earlier in track three, "Wild Fire." It's as if they are a pair of takes on the same subject, but from different accented positions — clever.

It feels like, as in yoga, she's tried on new poses by living a different style and kind of life here, and that now she's trying on new ways of using her gifts and searching her creativity for a new form of muse. Speaking of, another passion that has recently taken over her life is a podcast; "Reversal of the Muse," which looks at the way women work in recording studios and tries to encourage more to take up traditionally male roles.

It's an album of transitions, within Marling herself and between the characters of the songs. This may not be her masterpiece, but it is definitely her most accessible album yet. Follow Laura along the road she's traveling, a Mid-Atlantic soul disassociating herself from her roots in the nu-folk scene in the U.K. and taking a chance on the promises of the New World. Marling is still finding her feet here, but it's fun — and still soothing — to explore the new terrain with her.


Laura Marling - official site

Related Stories

  • Laura Marling plays songs and talks about her new album, 'Semper Femina' Laura Marling's sixth studio album, 'Semper Femina,' releases Friday, March 10. In an interview with New Hot host David Safar, Marling spoke about her songwriting as well as gender and gender roles, and creativity and symbolism, and how all those things coalesced on the new release.
  • Laura Marling performs in The Current studio Ahead of her performance at the second annual Festival Palomino, Laura Marling stopped by The Current to perform live in-studio and to chat with host Steve Seel about her latest album <em>Short Movie</em>.
  • 'It Was Such A Knock On The Head': Laura Marling On Empathy "I think I was overwhelmed by the vastness of the world and, more particularly, America," the English singer-songwriter says of <em>Short Movie</em>, an album inspired by her stay in L.A.
  • Laura Marling performs an intimate show in the UBS Forum Ahead of her first US tour date in support of <em>Once I Was an Eagle</em> at the Women's Club in Minneapolis, Laura Marling stopped by to play songs off her latest album in Minnesota Public Radio's UBS Forum. Between songs, Marling talked to Steve Seel of The Current's Morning Show about Patty Smith, Greek mythology, and playing with an orchestra at the BBC Proms.
  • The Current's Guitar Collection: Laura Marling The Current's Guitar Collection is a look at some of the instruments that have been played in The Current's studios. Many times, there's a good story behind a guitar, often known only to the person who plays it.
  • Laura Marling performs live in The Current studio At just 21 years old, English folk singer Laura Marling has already released her third full-length album, "A Creature I Don't Know." With her first two albums nominated for the Mercury Prize, she's already accomplished a lot at a young age.
  • Laura Marling performs live in The Current studios Armed with strong folk influences, an acoustic guitar, and her delicate yet growling voice, Laura Marling has made a name for herself in England, joining the ranks of Adele, Lily Allen, and Kate Nash. Her most recent release, "Alas, I Cannot Swim" was nominated for a Mercury Prize, and she's only 18 years old.

comments powered by Disqus