Laura Marling – Short Movie

Short MovieLaura Marling is a horse in search of a warrior. This is her first bad move. Horses should stick to searching for oats and merrily cantering around fields. By this rejection, we learn that Laura Marling is a badly trained and rebellious horse, typified by her dismissal of traditional breakfast foods. So opens Short Movie, Marling’s fifth studio album. "Warrior" is not the best (or worst) song on Short Movie, but it is typical of what Marling has to offer; slightly clumsy abstractions of relationships in which she has been asked to bear (or bore) loads of men (or hay?) that she is not willing to.

Marling recorded Short Movie off the back of a “universal humbling." She had a breakdown after 18 months of touring. She had the realisation she was living alone in the outskirts of hell in Los Angeles. She was outright rejected from a prestigious poetry course in New York that she applied to anonymously. The last one should be less of a surprise. Marling’s reputation as a poet, (or at least a poetic songwriter) is mostly due to the absence of competition in her contemporaries. This and other fairly general coming of age experiences has led Marling to proclaim that she has become “far more empathetic” and produced a mature record.

Marling goes too far here. She was not responsible for the shift in folk’s function being the communication of a country’s myths to a form of desperate emotional catharsis for young performers trying to make sense of the world, but she certainly isn’t doing anything to stop it. Short Movie is more musically experimental than her previous work, yes. But Laura Marling is still singing about Laura Marling and singing lines like, “The women downstairs has lost her mind and I don’t care how, so I don’t care why", "Is it OK, that I don’t know how to be alone?” and, “I don’t love you like love me. I pretty sure that you know." Another epic of self-conscious doubt and diary entries.

And that’s fine, that’s clearly who Laura is and is hoping to grow comfortable being. But it makes her a peculiarly unsympathetic narrator. Short Movie contains a song called "Strange" in which Marling provides analysis of a man who wants to lead a “simple life” and love his children and wife, while Marling plays the other woman who has shown him there is more to life, though she never specifies what exactly. An old folk and blues theme. Marling however treats it as a sounding board for a new vocal delivery with pinched and quite cutting sounds. The result is that she becomes the snide, younger women boasting about the width of her world vision while being unable to see that she is ruining a home (she can be a sexy horse as well apparently) and judging not only the man, but proposing to understand the entire system that produces “simple people.” She doesn’t.

Marling is too abstract and fey to be a good folk poet. By her own admission she doesn’t do “small-talk”, because she’s a “serious person.” Whatever the hell that means. But it’s in the small talk that you demonstrate that you understand that it’s a world of people who also have these same feelings that Marling seems to think, she solely has a handle on. We know that she can do sound effects to communicate the passing of deep time and moody solitude. We know that she can sing with the barbaric intensity of a frustrated Sainsbury’s employee. We don’t know that she can write songs about anyone other than Laura Marling. Twenty five and still a foal.

Release: 23rd March 2015, Virgin

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