Album Review: Laura Marling - Semper Femina

6 March 2017 | 2:06 pm | Matt O'Neill

"More Waits circa '83 than Dylan circa '65."

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At the time of release, many critics viewed Laura Marling's Short Movie as an attempt by the singer-songwriter to expand beyond her acoustic sound into something noisier and rockier.

Semper Femina, following up that record, doesn't really fit comfortably into that narrative. While it's hardly a return to those acoustic traditions, it's not exactly a clear-cut move in a specific direction.

Really, it's just a little bit weirder. Overall, Semper Femina maintains Marling's typical sound as a songwriter — but, scattered throughout, there are consistent flickers of left-field production and unusual instrumentation that lend a surprisingly odd miasma to the album. The mournful vocals of Don't Pass Me By float atop a bed of mumbling electric guitar, fuzzed-out drum machines and swooping strings that feels almost Lynchian. Opener Soothing wraps a rich, romantic folk song around a collection of tiny electronic rhythms.

It's not a startling transformation, but it gives the album a unique personality and speaks to an increasingly intriguing future for Marling. Whereas many saw her moving towards a more rock-oriented identity after her last album, Semper Femina feels like a prelude to a more idiosyncratic direction. More Waits circa '83 than Dylan circa '65.

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