Laura Marling’s 10-track navigation through nostalgia and womanhood is an ode to all our daughters. A landscape of the heart, Marling’s narrative is both personal and observant, private yet universal. Released ahead of schedule due to our collective confinement, ‘Song For Our Daughter’ is everything we didn’t know we needed.
It’s easy to make many comparisons between Marling’s seventh-studio offering, notably the Cohen inspired: ‘Alexander’ and the Joni Mitchell infused open tunings and explorative range, yet Marling deserves nothing less than complete ownership: ‘it’s my right to wander’, Hope We Meet Again, and rightly so, wandering to the extent that the album is uniquely hers. Production (Ethan Johns) is not decorative but loyally soars with cautiously placed strings and lavish percussion when warranted, complementing the grit and vulnerability of Marling’s speak-singing and accompaniments.
Such vulnerability is captured perfectly on lead single: Held Down, in which we explore the complexities of who we are in terms of another. From the power encapsulated in positional dynamics to the emotional standards that must be upheld: ‘I don’t want to let you down’, Held Downdoes not paint an image of helplessness but one of delicate simplicity, and such is the key distinction from Marling’s previous albums. Whilst on the surface thematically similar to Semper Femina, Song For Our Daughter’s greatest strength is its universality, conveyed through the scarce, or obvious, use of metaphors and mutual relatability.
Such simplicity runs effectively throughout the album, notably in: Blow By Blow. A meticulously placed middle track, the piano-backed ballad whispers heartache through its tenderly placed strings and harmonies, the latter moving as a chorus of women harmonising in solidarity and commonality with the protagonist, Marling herself. Such imagery lends itself to the success of Marling’s commentary on womanhood and persisting conventions of femininity.
The punchy, self-reflective: Strange Girl acts as a percussive rallying call to finding oneself in the new-found wake of narcissists and unpaid experience, whilst the title track: Song For Our Daughter succeeds in conveying, with utter sincerity, a universal hope for those which come after us, in that they can be better prepared and equipped: ‘The book I left by your bed’ to deal with what many have been and/or continue to be subject too: ‘The words that some survivor read.’ The title track also plays as a commentary on navigating the music industry as a woman, and such lends itself in relatability to other aspects of professional life. If our clothes haven’t been commented on first before our music, we feel naked even with them on, our souls laid bare under intensified scrutiny and isolation, very much in the minority in the studio, stage and writing room. The minimalist arrangement of strummed guitar and sparse piano creates space for articulation, valuing the freedom to hear one’s own voice.
From financial independence to emotional autonomy, freedom is further explored two-fold. The album’s arguably most harrowing track: Fortune, inspired by Marling watching her own Mother save up £1 coins, depicts the lifeline offered to a woman through her financial independence:
‘You took out that money that your Momma had saved, she told me she’d kept it for running away.’
Thus painting universal imagery all too synonymous with the sensibility of having an escape route to call upon if needed, whilst the longing for emotional autonomy in: The End Of The Affair, narrates experiences of empathetic endings implicit of mothering as we consume the feelings of another: ‘This is too much for man to hope’. It concludes with a prioritisation of the self: ‘now let me live my life’, once again moved to such a conclusion through a harmonising chorus of feminine commonality.
The lullaby-like: For You futuristically rocks us to the end with a bass-led harmonic descension, concluding the body of work with a relevancy as poignant as any of the great works of feminist commentary. In a time defined by nostalgia and collective trauma, Marling offers melancholy hope rich in experience, recovery and self-acceptance with a faithful collection of songs for all our daughters.