Album Review: Laura Marling—“Short Movie”

By Helena Najm

If Once I Was an Eagle was a work that sprawled its wings out with grandeur, Short Movie reigns that eagle in and puts it under a microscope. Laura Marling reintroduces herself with a new sound and a new perspective in her songwriting: This album has poppier undertones and a more outward looking Marling that makes it more accessible than its predecessor, which weighed listeners down with the force of a crushing emotional monolith.

Album art for Short Movie

Album art for Short Movie

Her wicked guitar picking shines through more than ever, amplified by the fact that she has moved from her familiar acoustic guitar to a shiny red Gibson gifted to her by her father, and is sporadically complemented by a swooshing psychedelic wash reminiscent of The Cure’s Disintegration. Marling’s sweet voice has a more powerful tone, evoking strength and a sense of self, but ironically the songwriting on this album delves into her identity crisis and lack of belonging after moving to California from her native England. As opposed to the “you” that was central to her triumphant breakup album Once I Was an Eagle, Marling turns the attention onto herself in a self conscious analysis of her departure from her roots.

The albums standout tracks showcase a departure from her trusty folk sound in favor of art rock undertones echoing the Velvet Underground and Nico (as heard on “Don’t Let Me Bring You Down”) and blues rock on “Howl” and the Dire Straits-esque “Gurdjieff’s Daughter.” However she ties it back to her folk idols by evoking the obsessive introspection of Joni Mitchell and by balancing the album with two gorgeous acoustic-led folk tracks (“Easy” and “Divine”).

Less cohesive than her previous work, these experiments show that although some fans might think that she had churned out her best songwriting on her previous records, she still has something to say. The only issue with this album is that she remains a bit unsure what she is trying to say, and with characteristic indecision she hops around with different concepts and does her best to expand her range. She makes this work by doing it all with confidence, which is best showcased in the quasi-spoken-word track “Strange,” which is an admirable Patti Smith-like effort that remains the furthest departure from her previous work.

Marling ties up her Californian adventures and the search for herself in the penultimate, eponymous track “Short Movie,” in which she chants, “It’s a short fucking movie, man” as though she has come to the realization that she doesn’t need to be roped into the expectation that her work must remain stagnant for it to be as well-received as before.

This album has further affirmed that she is one of the best and most prolific songwriters of her time, no matter the style within which she decides to work. You won’t find her apologizing for reaching out and trying something new, and at the tender age of 25, she shouldn’t be afraid to. (Ribbon)

Listen: “Short Movie”


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