The Amer­i­can way

Al­bum of the Week

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC REVIEWS - LAU­REN MUR­PHY


Short Movie ★★★★

Vir­gin EMI

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. lau­ra­mar­

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