BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
Laura Marling has come a long way since beginning her career at the tender age of 17, attaining an impressive pedigree that has elevated her familiarity factor through well deserved notice and accreditation. Her new album, Semper Femina, is her sixth so far, the latest in a string of releases she’s output over the course of the past nine years.
Happily, Marling has again stepped up to the plate, accepting her status with a degree of gravitas that finds her tackling crucial issues that have quickly moved to the foreground via today’s tempestuous world of politics and pontificating. She explores subjects dealing with society and sexuality, all the while hinting at a newfound sense of self-discovery as both an artist and individual.
Fortunately, the heady subject matter doesn’t detract from the music, which is both subdued and sublime, alluring and engaging from first song to last. The aptly titled “Soothing” reinforces that notion, but it’s tracks like “The Valley,” “Wild Once,” “Always This Way” and “Don’t Pass Me By” that show Marling at her most expressive and endearing. The arrangements add to the allure, exotic to be sure, but with a mystique that affirms Marling’s seductive intents. It’s the kind of music that effectively gets under the skin on first hearing, but still manages to grow even more enticing with each successive encounter. Marling’s take on modern British folk (think Sandy Denny or Pentangles’s Jaqui McShee) bears a stylistic similarity to her British forebears, but her lithe delivery distinguishes her all on her own. The lack of anything that’s decidedly uptempo may be a detriment to some, but the blend of strings and acoustic instrumentation more than compensates for the subdued stance. Clearly Marling is an artist of distinction, and with Semper Femina, the woman roars in ways both wonderful and revealing.
DOWNLOAD: “The Valley,” “Wild Once,” “Always This Way”