I’ve been saying this for years and I’ll say it again: Laura Marling is the greatest modern singer-songwriter.
She may not have the grandiosity of Justin Vernon, the connectivity of Sharon Van Etten or the quivering voice of her personal hero Ryan Adams, but no one writes the way she does, garnering Mercury Prize nominations for three of her four albums. With every word of her poetic and mysterious lyrics calculated and precise, Marling forces the listener to pay the utmost attention to her voice, which ranges from a dark whisper to a beautiful falsetto. Rachael Maddux put it best in her Pitchfork review of Marling’s career defining fourth record, Once I Was an Eagle: “Marling is 23; at first, the amount of time she had spent on this earth seemed relevant because nobody in her peer group was making albums like this. With Once I Was an Eagle, it’s because nobody of any age is making albums like this.”
Marling, now approaching 25, gives us the title track of her recently announced new record, Short Movie. It’s a curious song for the British songwriter; “Short Movie” is absolutely her most accessible track since her debut album, Alas I Cannot Swim. The dark touches of 2012’s “Night After Night” and the pent-up anger of last year’s “Master Hunter” are gone, only to be replaced by an upbeat pseudo-folk/pop song.
All of the anxiety, negativity and isolation of her move to Los Angeles is at play here, beautifully portrayed in the cartoon video for the track. Accompanied by the sweet violin sounds of Tom “Fiddle” Hobden of Noah And The Whale (who previously contributed to the majority of I Speak Because I Can and the famous violin outro of “Night Terror”), “Short Movie” gleefully bounces until it reaches the crescendo of its refrain: “it’s a short fucking movie, man.” The title track of Marling’s fifth album perfectly captures a trying year filled with psychedelics, a loss of naivety and personal exploration, encompassing what Marling describes as “doubt, magic, hope, humanity, salvation, rage, peace, place and being alone” all while showing a “striking new confidence.”