This is the seventh album from English singer-songwriter Laura Marling, who I recently started listening to after listening to the lead single of this record “Held Down”, which is a soothing piece of soft rock with encapsulating moments of vocal layering and very smooth guitar work.
The guitar work is phenomenal across the runtime and begins with the opening track “Alexandra”, which, per Marling, is a response to Leonard Cohen’s “Alexandra Leaving“.
On the third track, “Strange Girl”, Marling transitions into some folk rock with a little drop of some vocal inflections on the hook that you would hear in a country song, a la Dixie Chicks. While I do love this song quite a bit, it is the most verse-hook-verse track on this record, which goes to show how good Marling’s storytelling is on this record as later on, there are seamless transitions and flowing between the hook and the verses that make it seem like we are listening to one long verse.
“Only The Strong” is another incredible highlight on this record. This track reminds me of Norah Jones at her best. An intimate vocal experience with very relaxing, plucky instrumentals that you can just sit back and listen to outside on a nice day. However, its lyrical content is dejecting as Marling discusses how one can survive after dealing with what sounds like multiple heartbreaks as with the line “And I won’t write a woman with a man on my mind“.
The dejection gets even worse on the gut-wrenching, piano-driven “Blow By Blow”, which, to me, sounds like someone trying to deal with not only the physical trauma, but the psychological trauma that comes with domestic violence; “Note by note. Bruise by bruise. Sometimes the hardest thing to learn is what you get from what you lose“.
“Song For Our Daughter” is a note to young women about the potential manipulations and bad influences they may get when they try to shoot for fame, It also reaches out to women who have struggled with sexual abuse, and being ignored by those who don’t believe them. “There’s blood on the floor. Maybe now you’ll believe her for sure”.
Along with the plucky, soft instrumentals, Marling shows off her vocal prowess on “Fortunes”, which reminds me of something you would hear off of Natalie Mering’s(Weyes Blood) 2019 album, Titanic Rising.
If you weren’t already sad after “Blow By Blow”, Marling hits us with “The End of the Affair” in which she describes two people that are cheating on their respective partners, and decide that this is their final meeting and will make better on their vows to their partners. The droning guitar work puts you in this trance of somberness where you can’t help but feel for these two people who are committing an act that most would perceive to be bad.
“Hope We Meet Again” is a fine track with the continued narrative that the album has been following, but the instrumental is a little too much like “Only The Strong”, which is the better of the two, and the vocals don’t really hit the same immaculate strides that we’ve heard throughout the record.
However, Marling ends this record on a high note with “For You”. The hums throughout will definitely draw Kid Cudi comparisons, but they have a completely different impact on this song than what Cudi does with his as this song is essentially a lullaby. Marling describes the love she has for this fictitious newborn. The song will make you want to hug your mom tight afterward.
By a mile, this is the best album I have listened to so far in 2020. It can make you feel distraught at points, but will pull you write back in with very loving and caring songwriting that will put you in a state of peace and calmness.
Richest Tracks: “Alexandra”, “Held Down”, “Strange Girl”, “Only The Strong”, “Blow By Blow”, “Song For Our Daughter”, “Fortune”, “The End of the Affair”, “For You”
Worst Track: “Hope We Meet Again”
Listen to the album: