Semper Femina – roughly translated from Latin to mean “woman is ever a fickle and changeable thing.” – is a phrase lifted from ancient poet Virgil. In the hands of some, the references made in Marling’s new album would seem pretentious, but Marling’s confidence, style and image makes the album both intellectually and musically intriguing.
A study into womanhood and female relationships, Marling’s Semper Femina adopts an approach to relationships rarely found in music. Drifting from the typical topic of heterosexual romantic relationships, Marling delves into both platonic and romantic intra-sexual relationships, as well as developing an underlying theme of introspection.
Marling’s success in the folk scene can be attributed to her seeming self-assurance on all her releases. Each album gives off the impression that Marling understands where her ability lies, and uses this ability to its full extent. Nonetheless, Marling isn’t like this. A few years ago, Marling gave up music and became a yoga teacher in America. There, she says, she felt she had no identity. Depressive and lost, Marling’s hiatus was a difficult time. Hence, with the release of Semper Femina, the self-exploration is authentic, and the feelings discussed real. Unlike many in the current folk scene, Marling doesn’t have to develop a character, or fabricate struggles to produce interesting work. Just as Townes Van Zandt’s lyrics were genuine, so are Marling’s. The authenticity in her latest work makes Semper Femina an oddity in the modern folk scene.
Simple acoustic finger-picking accompanies Marling’s voice on many of the tracks to great effect. Other tracks, such as ‘Soothing’ illustrate the dynamism of the folk singer. Adopting two bass guitar tracks and a much heavier orchestration, Marling’s best track on the album is perfectly mixed and perfectly sung. ‘Don’t Pass Me By’ again marks a move away from her usual acoustic folk style. Mildly distorted and heavily altered guitar plays over a preset drum track (later developing into live drums) to produce a low-tempo track which possesses no frills, but still remains in the listeners mind five tracks on.
There is a reason why Laura Marling has progressed to the heights she is currently at, and others have been left behind in the London ‘Nu-Folk’ (as somebody thought it should be dubbed – unfortunately). Producing albums which portray musical confidence in the midst of confused introspection leaves a mark of authenticity which is lost recently in the discography of many current artists. Not yet falling foul to the trap of commercialism, Marling’s Semper Femina is worth a listen – or ten.
Artist: Laura Marling
Label: Kobalt Music Group
Release date: March 10, 2017
Play time: 42 mins
Standout track: Soothing