Laura Marling Song for Our Daughter album cover

Laura Marling - 'Song for Our Daughter' Review - a Collective Experience of Daughterhood

It’s been 10 years since I first listened to Laura Marling in the back of the car on my brother's iPod as the motorway lights illuminated the engulfing November darkness. He had the song ‘Ghosts’-the opening track of her debut album ‘Alas I cannot swim’- which I played endlessly until I was old enough for YouTube only to find a growing discography that would be the soundtrack to the rest of my life. Since 2008 Marling has published seven successful studio albums, each album being an homage to contemporary folk acoustic traditions in line with the likes of Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. In person she can be described as an old soul with a calm demeanour, one which bares open to the audience once she picks up her guitar.

To say the times we are living in are uncertain has become somewhat of a cliché, but back in April- one month into national lockdown- the atmosphere was teeming with insecurity. Amongst this came a respite; Laura Marling’s seventh studio album-‘Song for our Daughter’ which was released earlier than expected much to the surprise of the listener, but also the artist herself. Ten tracks all addressed to an imaginary daughter inspired by Letters to My Daughter (by Maya Angelou) provided a necessary comfort and breathing space. For those who have not ventured through Marling’s albums, each grows stronger, wiser and in truth more maternal as the years go by. Marling is not a mother but her innate maternalism sparks from a place of deep introspection from moments of her own life where she did not “have to come out the victim”. It’s an introspection which lives in us all, the constant feeling of indignance over the past, however when spelt in lyrics and sung in Marling’s wise beyond years voice it produces an album which is both witty, musing and overall protective for the future.

Marling admits to playing a character within this album, which in her own words, is “forsaken” and “hardworking”, one which is evident in the song ‘Blow by Blow’. Hitting the nail on the head in her contemplation-“Trying to figure out/ What I will do with all my time”, a sense of existential dread echoes the sudden pause of daily life in the real world. Her admission of powerlessness taking a break from the usual poetic lyricism creating a stark contrast to the rest of the album. Amongst this angst the title track ‘Song for our Daughter’ plays like a lullaby, an ode to an imaginary daughter and perhaps her listeners too, to find strength in the trauma intrinsically intertwined with womanhood- “Lately I've been thinking/About our daughter growing old/All of the bullshit that she might be told”. The album acts as a safe haven, Marling watches over us as we make the same mistakes and give into the same “bulls**t” over and over again. The interlacing harmonies in ‘Strange Girl’  create an up-beat country western style track, the chorus line providing this comfort- “I love you my strange girl/ My lonely girl, my angry girl/ My brave”.

Marling’s vocals often are surprising in its diversity: at times blended into the harmony, at times intensely lyrical and at times incredibly powerful above and beyond the echoes-as displayed in ‘The End of the Affair’ with the climactic catharsis of “I love you. Goodbye”. One cannot amiss the sweetness of the closing track ‘For You’, a song which admittedly stays close to my heart. Marling, in an interview, laughs at the juvenile quality of the song deciding to keep in her guitar solo despite it sounding “like a five-year old picking up a guitar”. Praying to a divine entity she sings of finally finding love -“I thank a God I've never met/ Never loved, never wanted (for you)”. This is Marling at her gentlest, her voice swaying with the harmony. There is an almost innocent naivety which reinforces, after an entire album filled with adult themes of loss, confusion and rumination, that we are all in the end children at heart, always holding on for a purpose both beautiful and precious.

Of all of Marling’s albums, ‘Song for our Daughter' stylistically is perhaps not the most ‘folk-like’, the tonal shift between earlier works ‘I Speak Because I Can’ and ‘A Creature I do not Know’ being highly notable in its definitive ‘folk’ quality. Yet what surprises me most is that with each new album encompassing a new tale of love, loss and womanhood I am able to keep Marling’s words close to my heart as I did as a teenager. The care for her music being something that through the ages I have always come back to and keep as my little secret.  Lyrically the album is as ever a showcase of poetry, as she writes about our everyday existence, alluding to her earlier song ‘Blackberry Stone’­ where she states-“I wrote this sky”. The beauty lies in its nostalgic quality towards her earlier work, combining her originality with newer influences she has found over the years.  The quick jumps between jubilant energy in songs such as ‘Strange Girl’ and ‘Alexandra’ juxtaposing with the quiet melancholy of ‘Blow by Blow’ and ‘Hope we Meet again’-a trope Marling has been using since her beginnings. In a way Marling’s body of work is a constant evolution, yearning forever for the past in ironically newer, modern ways. An album so fiercely for herself shared through her imaginary daughter provides the listener a maternal comfort so desperately needed, a sense of belonging within Marling’s world wherein we can figure out our own world. In this sense we are all the daughter Marling dreams of,  hoping to make sense of this new reality.