Laura Marling has remained remarkably consistent throughout her ten year career. She hasn't reinvented the wheel, nor has she needed to. There will always be a place in the musical landscape for sincere, well written songs that attempt to make sense of the world. And, so long as the radio is filled with manufactured pop dross (which it will as long as there are 13-year-olds with their parents' money), it will always be refreshing.
The bulk of Semper Femina, Marling's sixth album, mines the territory that she is a master of manipulating: femininity, heartbreak, nature. The title alone reaffirms Marling's feminist beliefs, with a militant nod in case the message wasn't getting across. Many of her songs showcase her fearlessness in defying a society that expects her to be a passive spectator in her own life (see Always This Way and Nothing, Not Nearly). It is this overt agency that threads together all of her music: from Ghosts to All My Rage, through I Was an Eagle and now into this album. Marling is forever the puppet master; “I banish you with love”, she commands on Soothing.
A few tracks have a variety and playfulness that keeps the album from feeling monotonous. Nothing, Not Nearly picks up the pace and adds some honky-tonk guitar blasts (and even a solo!); Wild Once straddles the border between singing and spoken word; while Soothing hints at Marling's torch singer ambitions (all female solo artists must pay homage to Adele to get a sniff at chart success in the UK).
However, it is with a simple melody, an acoustic guitar and some swooping strings, that Marling really shines. Semper Femina continues her decade-long hot streak with another collection of finely wrought vignettes on love, loss, and the empowerment that can be found in both.
Listen to: Soothing, Wild Once