Laura Marling’s Short Movie spellbinding masterpiece

Emma Dahl

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Right off the bat, I’m going to say that I can only hope that I’ll do Laura Marling’s new album Short Movie justice in this review. I’ll let you know right away that Short Movie is an incredible album. Laura Marling is an expert songwriter, and every single track on this album is a little microcosm of sincerity and sentimentality.

I mentioned in an earlier article that I thought that Laura Marling could be the heir to Joni Mitchell’s throne of female folk royalty. But now I realize that Marling has eked out her own niche, something distinct from Joni Mitchell’s masterful sound. The beauty of Marling’s music lies in its simplicity and honesty; the singular plucked guitar, the repeating melodies, her glissando vocals and the universal themes of love and loss all combine to create an atmospheric space of emotion, frustration and discovery.

In Short Movie, her fifth full-length album, Marling hits her stride. While not entirely novel, the album firmly establishes her character and her voice. Through her past album releases, she’s consistently improved her storytelling and fine-tuned her musical ability. I shy away from saying that she’s reached her peak as a songwriter because I know that she’ll continue to make fantastic music and might even take a different approach later in her career, but Short Movie is a continuation of what works for her musically, and it works very well.

Short Movie is a continuation of themes established in 2013’s Once I Was an Eagle, themes that aren’t new to Marling’s repertoire. She sings of distrust, of testing relationships, of the joy of freedom but also the darker effects of being alone. Perhaps the main difference between Short Movie and her previous work is that her music tastes more mature; it’s a reflection of her growth as a person. The discussions in her lyrics are heavier and more thoughtful, but at the same time a little more ethereal and posted at arms distance. She definitely sounds like a 20-something year old trying to sort everything out. Often her tone savors strongly of bitterness; every syllable of “Strange” stings as she berates a cheating partner. But sometimes her music is celebratory. “I’m yours and you’re mine, it’s divine,” she croons on “Divine.” She expresses her ability to get what she wants “How Can I” with the lyrics “I’m taking more risks now/I’m stepping out of line/I put up my fists now/Until I get what’s mine.” The range of emotion she covers on this album reflects the chaotic dynamics of being a young adult, on the brink of true responsibility and in a place of both fear and excitement of stepping out on your own. 

Relatable, artistic and divinely beautiful, Short Movie is an album worth your time. Marling has once again crafted an organic and heartfelt stampede of expression, an exploration of the dynamics between masculine and feminine and an honest look at the way it feels to be young, afraid and excited all at once.