Album Review: Laura Marling - Song For Our Daughter
Updated: Oct 25, 2020
The timing for this drop was perfect. The word, engulfed in the chaos of a global pandemic, had been under pressure for weeks, if not months. The UK was no exception, with anxiety and stress mounting in countless households across the country. Thankfully, floating into our lives came Laura Marling’s seventh studio album, Song For Our Daughter, her first since 2017’s outing, Semper Femina.
It was very much welcomed. It arrived when clarity, composure, calm and peace were required, just as lockdown had really started to bite. It was as if it was timed purposefully. The production is intimate, like a warm hug, an embrace that so many people have been without for so long.
The introduction to the album comes in the form of the beautiful Alexandra, with Marling stating some Leonard Cohen influences in the subject matter - that might be, but it is sung and played more with the grace of Eva Cassidy or Joni Mitchell. This is strumming heaven, as forceful yet delicate as anything in Marling's back catalogue.
You can faintly hear Marling's voice in the background as the intro to Held Down begins, a track that had graced our radios during the worst moments of lockdown, it’s repetitiveness soothing and reassuring during a time of need. The rolling bass is gorgeous, as are Marling's ‘ooohs’ (the backing vocals were all her). They were the cry letting us know we would get through this. As reassuring as the sound of Strange Girl, not a single but got plenty of its lots of airplay on BBC 6 Music - and thankfully so! The double bass and drums are the perfect introduction for this upbeat, Joni Mitchell-esq gem. The harmonies contained with the chorus are delicious.
It is the opposite to the stunning Only The Strong. What to say about this track? It’s finger picking perfection, with the keys & strings adding such depth and atmosphere, while Marling's voice sounding incredible. As the song builds up it is a joy to behold, a hairs on the back of your neck kind of joy. I really struggle to see past Only The Strong as standout track on the album. It’s the kind of guitar work that made your reviewer all in love with singer-songwriters from Bob Dylan to Stephen Fretwell. Laura Marling rightfully sings alongside them as immediate peers.
The keys to Blow By Blow steal the show as echoes of Mitchell's Blue stream out the speakers. The piano is as elegant as Marling’s voice, and our souls are attacked (in a good way) as the strings come in. The arrangement and production from Marling's long-time collaborator Ethan Johns, are perfectly worked, the delicacy of the opening is not overwhelmed by what follows.
As well crafted - this time through Marling's guitar strumming - is title track Song For Our Daughter. It holds the deepest of messages on the album, a warning of misogyny, sexual predators & the grimmest of situations. It’s so powerful. Beautiful strings once more, they really add to feel of this album, but for this track, it's the lyrics that hold the key to its success.
With Fortune we have a track that makes you stop in your tracks, telling you to take your shoes off, sit down and to simply listen. Again it is a song in the vein that is among your reviewer's favourites, just an acoustic guitarist finger picking away and singing with a vocal triumph, this time delivering a message about the challenges faced by women in the past, with this sorrow passed down to from mother to daughter. Stunning.
End of the Affair channels the wonderful talents of Eva Cassidy and Karen Carpenter that run through out the LP’s b-side, as Marling doesn’t now tell of striving, but dealing with heartache and saying goodbye in the most beautiful of breakup songs. Once again it's just her and her guitar until the backing vocals appear in the song’s crescendo before Marling sings out with ‘now let me live my life’.
The stripped back nature of the songs is a real feature of the flip-side of the album, none more so than Hope We Meet Again with its gorgeous pedal steel guitar. Another song about reflection while focusing on the future, Marling telling her imaginary daughter to always look ahead, never back in regret. It’s truly beautiful, but then every song on this LP is.
A change of sound for the closing track For You but a perfectly balanced ending. Gentle strumming and beautiful humming back an upbeat ending to the album, with its country guitar solo that stands out from the rest of the LP. As Marling sings ‘now that I have you, I will not forget what a miracle you are’. That’s how this album makes you feel, particularly during these troubled times.
Songs For My Daughter is a remarkable record. The moment I first heard this album I was hooked - it grabs your attention start to finish, transporting the listener into the world of her protagonist, as Marling hopefully intended. The concept is a wonderful idea - designing an album as a message, even a warning, to your imaginary daughter, telling her stories of sorrow, heartbreak, woe, hope & overcoming challenges. I could only wish to create something as beautiful as a message to my child.