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Laura Marling – Short Movie

March 27, 2015


Marling’s last release, Once I Was An Eagle, was my best of 2013. Short Movie is a further evolution of her sound. It is still acoustic based, but a bit more colored by rock instrumentation.   She continues to channel Joni Mitchell, but her phasing has broaden to include other influences (Lou Reed, Patti Smith and Chrissie Hynde perhaps?).  Like her last album I really appreciate that as much as she reminds me of Joni, she has her own voice both musically and lyrically.

As I have stated many times in this blog there is nothing I love more than an album that is a “grower,” that is, an album that reveals itself after repeated listens.  The first time I listened to this album I was a bit underwhelmed, but by my third listen it seemed like a whole new album. Filled with depth and nuance.  This review was pieced together after several more listens.  It has continued to reveal.

“Warrior” Marling’s voice and acoustic guitar are front and center like early period Joni, but it is augmented by swirling electronics  and echoed vocal overdubs giving it a more Nick Drake feel.

“False Hopes” starts out like it could be an outtake from Joni’s Blue but it evolves into a full-out rocker that would not sound out of place on late period Replacement’s album (including some Westerberg phlegmatic phrasing).

“I Feel Your Love” more channeling Joni.  Deep bowed strings and jangling guitar.  “I feel your love/Please let me go” what an interesting emotion.

“Walk Alone” I am sorry, but this is the best Joni album – since Joni stopped making albums.  But again Marling makes it her own.

“Strange” A nice change-up – Laura does Lou (Reed).  Marling delivers a nice snarl.

“Don’t Let Me Bring You Down” rocks like the Pretenders.  It starts with a simmer and then comes to a full boil.  Lyrically Marling cuts open a vein and lets it bleed:

Please don’t let me bring you down
Do I look like I’m fucking around?
Love seems to be some kind of trickery
Some great thing to which I am a mystery
I’m not sure I can do it

“Easy” has a nice Dylanesque lyric and melody.  A nice ode to an old friend with this frank lyric: “You fell asleep listening to me linger on.”

“Gurdjeff’s Daughter” Musically this echos Dire Straits’ “Sultans of Swing.”  This is the most musically sophisticated song on the album. According to Song Facts:

A shaman that Marling met inspired in her an interest in mysticism. This led to the English singer hunting down everything she could find about the Chilean filmmaker, author and spiritual guru Alejandro Jodorowsky. This surreal track was written about some advice that the Armenian spiritual teacher George Gurdjieff gave to his daughter, which she passed on through an encounter with Jodorowsky at a film premiere.

Marling told NME: “I was reading Joborowsky’s biography. There is this absolutely brilliant moment where he meets Gurdjieff’s daughter. Gutdjieff is like a spiritual teacher, a philosophical cult leader, and this daughter tracked Jodorowsky down at a première of El Topo in Mexico City to tell him he needed to brush up on his metaphysical skills because he’s going to be a really important part of humanity. She said, ‘I’ve been sent to teach you all these things.'”

“They ended up in a hotel room together, and she reeled off this list of his sayings, his rules for living, of how to be a moral human being.”

“I pretty much turned that verbatim into a song. Like one of them is ‘Don’t share orders for the pleasure of being obeyed’ and another is ‘Don’t be impressed by big personalities.'”

“Divine” A little bit of Dylan modernized via Counting Crows.

“How Can I” is more classic Joni sounding material.  Cool minimalistic drums behind guitar and vocal.

“Howl” begins with a Pink Floyd sounding lethargic electric guitar riff. Marling pipes in with a smoky vocal.  Another song that has a Lou Reed feel.

“Short Movie” Marling gets vulnerable with a Nick Drake sounding song with this key lyric:

Just a girl that can play guitar
I think I could get away with
Saying only half what I say
No, I can’t give you up

“Worship Me”  ends the album.  This is the most mysterious lyric on the album.  Is it a women talking to her lover?  Is it an uncertain god?  Is it an idea talking?  Musically it is meditation.  There is a fascinating crackle in the background – almost like surface noise on an LP (I am listening via Spotify).

Overall this is a fine follow-up to Once I Was An Eagle.  Looser and yet a step forward.  I love Joni Mitchell and since she has withdrawn from the business I have to get my fix via her disciples.  And like Saint Paul she does her master proud with a sophisticated mediation. .  This will make the best of 2015 list for sure.




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