Release Date: 10/03/2017
Label: More Alarming
Laura Marling’s early records were largely defined by her youth, or more accurately, how good and how perceptively and well-written they were considering her youth. Now six albums into her career, she sounds decidedly more mature, Semper Femina especially carrying an air of wisdom and elegance throughout.
This sound both reflects and stems from the record’s theme, an exploration of femininity The title edits Virgil’s quote “woman is always fickle and changeable” into “always a woman” – fitting for a record that feels both as personal to Marling’s experiences as it does a musing on female experiences in general. When talking about this concept, Marling references a lot of poetry and art, and much of the same appears on the record. And while, like in person, she makes some interesting and eloquent points, her lyrics on this album often just paints vague and somewhat colourless character portraits, or poetic references that offer little else (“I was wild once / and I can’t forget it / I was wild, chasing stones”).
The lyrics feel like the focal point of the LP, with Marling’s pretty guitar playing and vocal melodies guiding each song as Jake Mills’ spacey, warm production and taste orchestrations blossom and flower around them. However, this does make for some weak points on the record – tracks that feel as though they simply pace around Marling’s melodies without knowing how to progress themselves. The record has a lovely atmosphere, but mainly just feels like a medium for Marling’s lyrics rather than a vital or compelling listen in its own right.
Words by Joe Gilbertson