Originally scheduled for release in August of this year, Laura Marling’s seventh solo album, Song For Our Daughter, was brought forward by four months, in view of the current global pandemic. Marling herself explains, “I saw no reason to hold back on something that, at the very least, might entertain and, at its best, might provide some union.” Based broadly on Maya Angelou’s book of essays, Letter To My Daughter, the songs on Laura Marling’s new album are written to an imaginary child, offering all the confidences and affirmations which she found so difficult to provide herself. Recorded in the basement studio of her London home, with the assistance of renowned producer Ethan Johns, the album sees Marling seeking to bring new perspective by writing beyond the edges of herself. In doing so, she has produced a highly assured and compelling set of songs, full of vivid imagery and with an unexpectedly high, and very welcome, proportion of melodic pop content.
There have long been occasional echoes of Joni Mitchell’s wild abandon or Bob Dylan’s sneering wisdom in Laura Marling’s songs and, on this new album, some traits of Crosby, Stills & Nash, The Band and Simon & Garfunkel can also be found. Marling’s uniquely expressive vocals, masterly acoustic guitar (and occasional piano) are joined by lush strings and glorious, multi-tracked backing vocals to produce a sound which is scaled-up, while retaining great intimacy.
In the album’s opening song, Laura Marling uses her purposeful acoustic strumming and yearning vibrato vocals to great effect as she sings of the enigmatic Alexandra. The album’s first single, Held Down, is a joyous affair, featuring a killer chorus, powerful guitar and bass rhythms and soaring backing vocals. Propelled by loping bass and intricate percussion, Strange Girl is an exhilarating ride (”I love you, my strange girl, my lonely girl, my angry girl, my brave…”). Reportedly inspired by a fairly recent meeting with Paul McCartney, Blow By Blow is a beautiful piano ballad, whose melancholic undertow is heightened by choral backing vocals and the soft caress of strings (”Note by note, bruise by bruise, sometimes the hardest thing to learn is what you get from what you lose.”).
The album’s central track, Song For Our Daughter, sees Laura Marling’s rich, warm vocals swathed in soothing strings and a gently rolling vibe, as she sings movingly of how she would have protected her younger self against some of life’s harsher experiences and challenges. In The End Of The Affair, Marling’s achingly beautiful vocals are complemented by gentle acoustic guitar, eerie washes of electronica and blissful, multi-tracked backing vocals (”I love you, goodbye, now let me live my life…”). There is a sense of regret in Hope We Meet Again, accentuated by quietly impassioned vocals, sombre strings, keening pedal steel guitar and a gently shuffling beat. The album’s closing song, For You, features Laura Marling’s graceful vocals cushioned by majestic, hummed backing vocals, delivering a real sense of peace and contentment (”I thank a god I’ve never met, never loved, never wanted…for you…”). In its deceptively simple construction, this song recalls the charming, homespun vibes of Paul McCartney’s early solo albums.
With Song For Our Daughter, Laura Marling has produced an exceptional album, which must be an early contender for inclusion in the ‘best of the year’ lists.
Song For Our Daughter was released by Chrysalis/Partisan Records on 10th April 2020.