Review: Short Movie

Tom Ronan 20 April 2015

Laura Marling expands her artistic vision on Short Movie, which is significantly more multifaceted than any of its predecessors. Where Once I Was An Eagle’s songs merge to form an eloquent movement-cum-poem, but ultimately something of a musical rabbit hole, those on Short Movie are artistically and sonically diverse.

Her stall is set out from opener ‘Warrior’, Marling proclaiming: "I can’t be your horse anymore". If the horse/warrior metaphor is extended to a somewhat trying degree, the sentiment and oft-poetic lyricism are powerful. As she asserts her independence linguistically, her music, too, advances in less derivative, more exciting directions. Next, ‘False Hope’ is adventurous, the harder, faster sound of her band matched by her vocals; she no longer cries out plaintively, but with genuine, primal desperation.

Thankfully, Marling’s newfound bullishness does not come at the expense of intimacy. ‘I Feel Your Love’ and, in particular, ‘Divine’, shine in this regard. The latter is a touching reflection on the transcendental power of love, but also bittersweet. Marling’s capacity to appear world-weary at the age of twenty-five might seem surprising, but this is, after all, already her fifth album. Despite the advent of cynicism, however, this offering feels as fresh as her first, Alas I Cannot Swim, written at the tender age of seventeen. In fact, it is this very unwillingness to suffer fools which chiefly contributes to this renewed blooming.

Much has been made of Marling’s time in the USA, where she has spent the majority of the last couple of years, but it was not simply some sort of belated ‘gap yah’ of self-discovery. That the refrain of the title song – ‘It’s a short fucking movie, man’ – was borrowed from a shaman whom she met on her travels might add to this perception, but the message within the words encapsulates why she is now more beguiling than ever, addressing mortality and life without holding back.

Along with ‘False Hope’, ‘Strange’ is testament to this individualism, delivered in spoken-word and unafraid to confront the ultimate aloneness at the heart of being. The final song, ‘Worship Me’, reveals a quasi-flippant sense of humour, but the last line is most revealing – ‘Devote your life to peace, and breathe’. Marling’s boldness and ever-growing confidence in herself, whatever she might be, stems from this renewed calmness, doing wonders for this album, just as unease had done for her more introspective first record.

8/10

Will Spencer's review was erroneously attributed to another author in the print edition