There’s one moment on Laura Marling’s Short Movie that embodies the spirit of the album as a whole, almost perfectly. On “How Can I”, the 25-year old singer/songwriter explains, “I’m taking more risks now. I’m stepping out of line.”
While this, most likely, is not a direct reference to musical or lyrical experimentation specifically, Marling’s declaration applies to her latest album. That being said, she isn’t exactly racing away from her comfort zone. “How Can I” may explicitly house Marling’s risk-taking sentiment, but it also stands as one of the least musically-adventurous songs on the album, relative to the rest of Marling’s catalog.
The dichotomy of old vs. new is a consistent theme throughout the album.
On Short Movie, Marling ‘goes electric’ and picks up her dad’s Gibson 335. She also explores some previously-unheard instrumentation and features the drums more prominently. All in all, the added oomph is unquestionably noticeable. Yet, the style in which she plays the electric guitar often times isn’t far off from that which she plays her acoustic.
Lyrically, Marling focuses on familiar ambiguities: love vs. lust, naivety vs. fear, madness vs. control, and the enduring vs. the ephemeral, but this time she occasionally steps out from behind the safety of allegory, letting us catch a glimpse of the woman behind the words. She’s not letting her guard down entirely, but she’s edging closer to the idea.
Depending on how you look at it, Short Movie is either a good collection of songs belittled only by its more cohesive predecessors or an outstanding album that intentionally seesaws and aptly remits Marling’s natural progression of self-discovery.
Either way, it’s a worthwhile listen featuring one of the current generation’s most imaginative folk guitarists and as well as one of its most uniquely alluring voices.