Published Apr 10, 2020Since her 2013 masterpiece Once I Was an Eagle, Laura Marling hasn't been afraid to use grand gestures to deliver her songs. She has injected her folk palette with genre-blurring sounds like driving rock rhythms, jagged guitar riffs and curiously dark pop arrangements. On her 2018 release with LUMP — a collaborative project with Mike Lindsay — Marling waded into the moody waves of synth-scapes.
On Song for Our Daughter, in contrast, Marling is more sonically contained than she has been in years: the tracks are limited mostly to guitar, piano, muted percussion, and light string accompaniment. As a result, it's a devoted collection of songs not meant to be yelled from rooftops but to inhabit the four walls of home. This expertly crafted intimacy is perhaps best exemplified in "Blow by Blow," a quiet piano ballad that feels heavy from Marling's vulnerable admissions: "I don't know what else to say, I think I'm doing fine / Trying to figure out what I will do with all my time."
It takes time to unpack Marling's lyrics on Song for Our Daughter, but at the album's core is a knot of love and worry. The standout "Held Down" finds Marling particularly anxious about her behaviour towards a loved one and repeats, "I don't want to let you down." Elsewhere, her worries extend to a future that hasn't happened yet. On the title track, Marling sings to a daughter she doesn't have and is concerned about how she will navigate the world, and on "Strange Girl," she effuses love for the many sides of the woman that her daughter may become.
While some artists have pushed back their album release dates in response to the current global health crisis, Marling has released Song for Our Daughter four months ahead of schedule. In a statement announcing the surprise release, she writes: "An album, stripped of everything that modernity and ownership does to it, is essentially a piece of me, and I'd like for you to have it." Right now, the album feels like a perfect gift, given the relevant tangle of love and worry that occupies it. But even if the present wasn't the present, Song for Our Daughter is a touching recording, and it demonstrates that, no matter the sonic style she chooses to play with, Marling remains at the top of her game. (Partisan)