A voice amidst her intensity that says, “I know who I am”
Maybe the best sign of an album that speaks to the heart is when you yearn for it. When you wait with anticipation until the next time you can listen to it, and fight the incessant urge to play it non-stop. Only the strongest of writers can bring you back like that, and Laura Marling is one.
Lauded with comparisons to the likes of Dylan and Mitchell, lifelong inspirations for Marling herself, she showed signs of her innate understanding of songwriting from the moment she debuted just over 12 years ago. She seems to unearth unquestionable beauty from the chords she plays and the notes she sings, and more so, renews these renditions both slight and new every album onwards. If you’ve seen her perform you’ll notice how solemnly distant she seems, and this place she goes to is the same place her music takes us. Those who’ve been there will know the feeling, and Song For Our Daughter takes you there with watershed grace, quicker and more truthfully than anything she’s brought us before.
Beginning at the end, closing track “For You” is a demo from her bunker studio and it’s practically unchanged from the first take. Marling remarks on her “terrible” guitar solo half the way through and choosing to keep it that way because of how sweet it sounds. It’s known that these soul-punching stripped backtracks have never been a challenge for her, yet this one seems so far apart from her pointed vocals and close-fitting guitar – strewn apart by charm and an innocence that she fittingly describes as a “five-year-old picking up a guitar for the first time” – that it’s like we’re getting to know an older, braver Marling.
“In all honesty, I think I’m getting softer in my older age,” she says on her Apple Music track-by-track guide. Song For Our Daughter is essentially a letter to Marling’s younger self, her song for all the world’s daughters. She looks at how they might navigate life based on her own experiences and regrets, the things she wished she’d done differently, the people that took advantage of her and the things that made her, and so it seems inevitable then that the voice guiding all this is not the same one guiding her previous records. She’s always writing about the woman she wants to be and on Song For Our Daughter it feels like she finally is that woman.
“Song For Our Daughter” is the best song off this record, and in some ways, it shadows other equally tender tracks (“Only The Strong,” “The End Of The Affair”). On some of Marling’s other records, these same tracks might have soared above the rest, and the fact that they seem like side acts here proves just how strong her writing has grown to become. Opening on a gentle and perfect melody, “Song For Our Daughter” carries the way through with ever becoming strings, both blissful and still, and lyrics at the center of this record – “with your clothes on the floor/ taking advice from some old balding bore/ you’ll ask yourself, ‘did I want this at all?;” “though they may take you for all you had left…innocence gone but it’s not forgot/ you’ll get your way through it somehow.”
Still tracks like “Blow By Blow” and “The End of The Affair” mark their name alongside the title track with refined fashion, further expanding on Marling’s deep catalog, and “Held Down” is another unleashed track from the heart, shining once again through the beauty of the melody and the simplicity of the strings.
This record is like the perfect synthesis between her core writing, what she has always done best, and a new kind of fearlessness. She balances the two so that nothing of her younger self is lost – Song For Our Daughter retains almost every bit of the Marling we expect – yet still, there’s a voice amidst her intensity that says, “I know who I am.” If Song For Our Daughter had a face it would be a young girl with daisy chains in her hair, surrounded by a field of green and a violin in hand. Then she would start to run, and we would never be able to catch her.