Laura Marling releases her sixth studio album on Friday. That’s six albums in nine years, and she’s only 27. It’s an impressive achievement and yet, I wonder, when I hear of prodigious talents with prolific output, how much artists sacrifice to push the work out fast. By which I mean: Look at Picasso, who had to invent Cubism so he could produce thousands of works that didn’t really look like anything.
‘Semper Femina’ takes short cuts, attempting to cover conceptually thin songwriting with a convoluted conceptual frame that doesn’t quite stand up to scrutiny. A reflection of Marling’s ‘masculine period’ – and an effort to explore the male gaze from the perspective of womanhood – it sounds a lot just like a collection of quite pretty songs about women.
Laura Marling is a stupendous talent, don’t get me wrong, and if you’re a fan of that voice then you’ll love this record. The jazz-inspired ‘Soothing’ starts where ‘Short Movie’ left off, setting a chilled, thoughtful pace that continues through the tracks. There are some beautiful songs here – especially ‘Wild Once’, where Marling playfully explores the range of her voice, and ‘Not Nearly’. But I don’t buy that it’s any more than a very good album dashed off on a tour bus, by someone with more energy than her talent can contain.