Laura Marling, the British songstress who released four records in five years, returns with her fifth, ‘Short Movie.’ After the earlier flurry of activity, Marling spent a couple of years in a self-imposed exile in Los Angeles surrounded by people who made art for art’s sake and nothing more. The experience recalibrated and renewed her dedication to her own art, and resulted in this album.
Marling admits that she’s not a skilled enough musician to craft exquisitely simple songs. That’s why her exquisitely complex compositions meander to and fro through intricate arrangements and varied signatures. Because of that, Marling has, in the past, drawn comparisons to Joni Mitchell. Here, that influence is evidenced on songs like “I Feel Your Love” and “Easy,” though Marling’s interpolation of Mitchell’s style is not as true as on, say, Eva Cassidy’s records. Marling uses Mitchell as a mere starting point before veering off in all manner of directions.
Once she gets going, Marling channels her inner Chrissie Hynde on “False Hope” and “Gurdjieffs’s Daughter,” then does her best Lou Reed-inspired talk-sing on “Strange” to craft some of her edgiest pieces. A little further in, “Don’t Let Me Bring You Down” feels like classic Ani DiFranco (though not without a small injection of Hynde-style swagger). That song’s opening lines sum up so much of what L.A. life was like for Marling — and anyone else, for that matter: “Living here is a game I don’t know how to play. Are you really not anybody until somebody knows your name?”
On the folkier, acoustic bits, Marling readily allows Nick Drake’s ghost to haunt “Warrior” and “How Can I” to great effect. Wonderful songs, both. Plugging in, Marling puts a plodding pulse and a tempered electric vibe on “Walk Alone,” “Howl,” and “Worship Me” — all of which recall M. Ward or, maybe, Iron & Wine. They are moody and muted, and some of Marling’s best works. As a follow-up to 2013’s critically acclaimed ‘Once I Was an Eagle,’ this set may not clear that record’s bar, but it holds its own.
‘Short Movie’ was released through Ribbon Music on March 24 and is available HERE.