‘Song For Our Daughter’ arrives months ahead of schedule as an inspiring respite from current troubles. To at the very least entertain, Laura Marling explains her reasoning for the early release, and at its best to provide some union. With it, she presents a snapshot of womanhood in today’s society, returning to her stripped-back folk following time embracing other facets of her creativity. Gone are raspier moments of predecessor ‘Semper Femina’, instead seeing a confident return to the ‘70s psychedelics of lead single ‘Held Down’ and the Dylan-esque ‘Strange Girl’.
From the perspective switch of opener ‘Alexandra’ - a response to Leonard Cohen’s ‘Alexandra Leaving’ - ‘Song For Our Daughter’ presents a poignant snapshot of the complexities of femininity - both ones imposed by society and ones engrained in Laura’s past. Some moments are remarkably candid; the bittersweet ‘Fortune’ delves into her mother’s struggle to follow her own path. Some are universal; the gut-wrenching ‘Blow By Blow’ presents one of the most accurate depictions of heartbreak written in recent memory, complete with a majestic string section.
Written as a series of learnings for an imaginary child, ‘Song For Our Daughter’ embraces realism above all else. “Lately I’ve been thinking about our daughter getting old,” she sings with her distinctive soft vocals void of melodrama, “all of the bullshit that she might be told”. Yet far from definitive, a subtly empowering positivity underpins the record, a notion that the future can be changed. As ‘Fortune’ references her mother’s running away fund, Laura celebrates the ability to break free of shackles. “I won’t write a woman with a man on my mind,” she sings on ‘Only The Strong’, “hope that doesn’t’ sound too unkind”. This caveat quickly proves to be unfounded. With all the understated power of the record, it feels far from unkind. Instead it’s an absolute necessity.
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Watch performances from the shortlisted artists on BBC Four at 10pm on 23rd September.
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