The American way
Album of the Week
Short Movie ★★★★
Perennial comparisons to the greats (Joni Mitchell, Carole King et al) would weigh heavily on any young songwriter’s shoulders. Perhaps that’s why, four albums in, Laura Marling temporarily departed England – the country so entwined with her pastoral, profound, elegiac folk sound – for the comparative glamour of LA.
On paper, it looks like Marling may have gone off the deep end: she’s spoken of an obsession with Chilean film-maker and spiritual guru Alejandro Jodorowsky and applying (unsuccessfully) for jobs as a waitress and a barista during her Stateside tenure. Yet Marling’s fifth album is not the work of an artist in existential crisis; instead, her belated gap year of sorts has flavoured her work with subtle swirls of American life.
There are tales of love found (Feel Your Love), and then lost (Don’t Let Me Bring You Down), references to downtown, the desert and “finding God in Santa Cruz”. But the most prominent theme on Short Movie is Marling learning how to be comfortable in her own skin.
“I’m taking more risks now/I’m stepping out of line/I put up my fists now until I get what’s mine,” she croons on How Can I. Those risks are musical as well as lyrical: there’s an undeniable whisper of Bruce Springsteen on the electric strum of False Hope and the brisk Gurdjieff’s Daughter, while the half-spoken, half-swarthily sung Strange evokes a palpablw country-infused aroma.
The album may not be as brutally compelling as some of her other works, but it’s still thrilling to watch Marling’s ongoing metamorphosis into so much more than just a young woman with a guitar and some beautiful songs. If this Short Movie is a mere taster, the featurelength version could be truly remarkable. lauramarling.com