Following previous albums where she managed to raise the bar on just about every release Laura Marling goes electric and points towards a new phase of songwriting. There is no longer any need to debate the importance of Marling to contemporary British music. She is one of our most revered artists who at this rate will have accumulated a massive body of stupendous work by the time she is forty.
For the duration of this new album "Short Movie", Laura Marling remains firmly ensconced in Los Angeles and has sought to slow down her hectic rush to release music. The result is another tremendous album but one that doesn't quite match the sheer grandeur of its predecessor "Once I was an Eagle" or her best album to date "I speak because I can". (In this reviewers humble opinion).
Still any music from Laura Marling is a real treat and there are great songs present. Opener "Warrior" has a Laurel Canyon feel to it under the electronic atmospherics and is a powerful start. The second song is "False Hope" which sees Marling gravitate in the direction of the musical arena which P.J. Harvey has dominated. It shows Her completely comfortable and at ease with a more brittle edged rock feel. Other tracks like the wistful acoustics of "Feel your love" could have happily sat on previous albums and as ever the vocals are delicious. Not all is well as the approach of "talking" the lyrics of "Strange" with a American twang creeping into proceedings does grate slightly and while the moodiness of "Howl" creates an interesting almost "Indian" sounding vibe, it is not her best work.
Much better is the playful title track where Marling starts with self deprecation "I got up in the world today/Wondered who it was I could save/Who do you think you are?/Just a girl that can play guitar". Equally the slow blues of "Don't let it bring you down" is beautifully discursive and powers up throughout. Those smitten with the acoustic heartbreak and laments of previous albums will find more exquisite songs in this tradition especially the poignant "Walk alone" a clear standout which is nearly matched by the jaunty acoustics of the wonderful "How can I". It is great to see Marling branching out in new directions and in "Gurdjieff's Daughter" she has penned a song that shows a clear path for the future. It is sort of Mark Knopfler meets Fiona Apple and is strangely compelling.
"Short Movie" shows no halt in the forward march of Laura Marling. While it does lack the conceptual strength and seamless power of "Eagle", there is plenty here to confirm what a mature artist Marling has become. On balance you sense that "Short Movie" may be the starting point or a transition into different forms of musical exploration. Marling like all great artists will undoubtedly take some significant forks in the road both now and into the future. With music of this quality it will be a journey that will be challenging but massively rewarding.
Review by Red on Black