Laura Marling - Semper Femina
The sixth album from Hampshire’s folk troubadour builds on the themes and styles that have been present throughout her work since 2008’s Alas, I Cannot Swim, bringing something new, however subtle, to each release. Whereas 2015’s Short Movie focused on addressing solitude, Semper Femina broadens its scope to encapsulate a larger sense of self and how these can impact your interactions with those around you. Semper Femina, translated means always a woman, takes a look at femininity and masculinity, and how close love can develop that isn’t necessarily romantic or sexual.
Musically this sixth album is a mix of the usual Marling tropes but incorporating a West Coast Love vibe with a laid back approach, sprinkled with sparse strings and cascading guitar lines. Highlights include opener ‘Soothing’ which injects a slinky seductive edge not usually present in Marling’s previous work, evoking a mid 80s Tom Waits burlesque bass line. Other highlights include ‘Wild Fire’ which looks at how we perceive ourselves and the scrutiny by others - “Wouldn’t you die to know how you’re seen? Are you getting away with who you’re trying to be?”, the almost Polynesian/Country sway of ‘Always This Way’, and the stripped back Martha Wainwright-esque ‘Nouel’.
This isn’t a perfect album, but when the few tracks do start to meander Marling knows when bring it to a close. Semper Femina is a confident release from an artist who has hit her stride and knows exactly what she wants to say and how to say it. Whether 100% is truly from personal experience or if, at times, Marling is playing a character as the music and styles switch from traditional British folk to the aforementioned 60s West Coast style. It doesn’t matter, and Marling won’t tell. With album closer, ‘Nothing, Not Nearly’, closing with the sound of Marling putting down her guitar, and walking outside to birds tweeting, she has said all that she wants to say.