Album Review: Laura Marling, Semper Femina

Elusive folk singer delivers career best LP

Laura Marling doesn’t care if you think her pretentious. She is pretentious, in the sense of believing music – her music at any rate – should serve a purpose higher than mere entertainment. In an age of frivolity she dares to be serious.

The enigmatic folk singer holds true to this ideal on her sixth long-player, which she has billed as “an exploration of modern femininity”. The title is latin for “Always A Woman” and Marling is concerned with the many ways in which women do, and do not, relate to one another. “I started out writing Semper Femina as if a man was writing about a woman,” she said recently. “And then I thought it’s not a man, it’s me — I don’t need to pretend it’s a man to justify the intimacy of the way I’m looking and feeling about women.”

On paper, this reads like heavy going. Maybe that’s the point, as the 27-year-old baronet’s daughter continues to put distance between her poised and austere output and her one-time “nu-folk” contemporaries Mumford and Sons and Noah and the Whale.  

She plunges deep on the stark ‘Nothing, Not Nearly’ and delivers a baroque acoustic dirge with the ethereal ‘Valley’. On crepuscular opener ‘Soothing’, strummed chords give way to her cold, pulsating voice. There is no pandering or soft-selling – just pain, honesty and a determination to never ever be subsumed. Ever the awkward customer, Marling has given us her finest album yet. 

 

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