By Devon Hannan, Features Editor
[More Alarming; 2017]
Key Tracks: “Wild Fire,” “Nouel,” “Nothing, Not Nearly”
“Always a woman” is the literal translation of “Semper Femina.” In Laura Marling’s sixth studio album, the folk artist absorbs the beauties and interpersonal experiences among women with every line she writes. Marling’s brilliance radiates through well-developed songwriting and complete submergence in blues-influenced instrumentation. Themes range from dealing with the death of parents to hardships in unsupportive families and heartbreak.
Semper Femina features some of Marling’s most interesting instrumentation to date. This album combines classic, southern steel guitar with delicate finger picking and heavenly arrangements of strings, primarily in “Don’t Pass Me By” and “Wild Fire.” On top of that, Semper Femina’s percussion is the vehicle of Marling’s message; Power-punching and soulful tempos drive her sensual and somber lyricism in a sea of twang and jazz effortlessly.
Marling’s unique, haunting vocal range exemplifies themes of freedom and finding yourself in tracks such as “Wild Once” and “Next Time.” While her impressive vocal range and lyrical themes of womanhood can be found on almost any of her previous releases, Marling’s ability to step into other women’s shoes, apart from her own, seems so natural and intrinsic. Her wisdom goes beyond the looking glass and translates her perspectives of various women into an utter sense of something that is all too real.
On “Nouel,” Marling expresses the realities wrapped up in change with the lines, “Oh Nouel, it hurts like hell / When you’re so afraid to die / Semper Femina / So am I.” Teeming with fidelity and honesty, Semper Femina’s outstanding songwriting makes for an album that would make Joni Mitchell proud.
Semper Femina is the perfect soundtrack to any woman trying to thrive in this political climate, as it is created with such vibrancy and soul. Where this album seems most delicate and feminine is where it carries the heaviest of weights – which, in turn, exemplifies a woman’s solidity and strength. Marling’s illustrious creativity puts a twist on age-old thematic conversations and gives some of the most alluring, lyrical nods to feminism in recent folk history.