The last we heard from Laura Marling was back in 2018 when she collaborated with Tunng frontman Mike Lindsay to release an album under the LUMP name. Her seventh solo album Song For Our Daughter sees her switch back to familiar arrangements, arguably resulting in her strongest album in a decade.
Released four months ahead of schedule in an attempt to offer succour and comfort at a time of unprecedented uncertainty, its main premise sees Marling considering what advice she would give to girls soon to find themselves challenged by all the world has to throw at them. Speaking ahead of the release she remarked how she “acutely feels the responsibility to defend The Girl” and what follows is a set of sensitively delivered tracks that demonstrate why she’s still so far ahead of her contemporaries.
Early moments like Alexandra and Held Down show her songwriting to still be supremely polished and her vocal delivery to be imbued with a strong sense of experience and knowledge. Strange Girl in many ways is the defining song on the album – a sincere open love letter to all girls of the world with flashes of humour. Musically it’s all liberated percussion and effervescent arrangements, reinforcing the view that she’s at her best when at her most animated.
As the album progresses the tone becomes more wistful. Only The Strong finds her in contemplative mood offering lines like “love is a sickness cured by time, bruises all end up benign” as comfort to those experiencing emotional insecurity. Blow By Blow is the most elegiac moment on the album, unfolding like a watercolour painting in progress and recalling the likes of Joni Mitchell and Judee Sill (it’s such a strong song that it wouldn’t sound out of place on Mitchell’s classic 1974 album Court And Spark).
The second half of the album feels increasingly withdrawn and introspective. The title track sees her sing about how “lately I’ve been thinking about our daughter growing old, all of the bullshit that she might be told” and Fortune has an exquisite sadness, Marling trying to empathise and uplift the spirits of an unnamed other – “we wandered the landscape in this unbearable pain, oh my, your fortune can change”. Similar pathos is found on The End Of The Affair but with an alleviating lightness of touch. Hope We Meet Again sees her turn the focus back on herself while maintaining a sense of humility – “I’ve lived my life in fits and spurts, maybe I’ve had more than I deserve”.
Song For Our Daughter is a return to what made her so widely admired. These are songs of undoubted depth and longevity that can provide moments of relief and solace to those in need.