Laura Marling, Short Movie, album review: Star of her own movie finds a happy ending

Her self-imposed exile is the one thematic mainspring driving this record

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The Independent Culture

Written during Laura Marling’s solo sojourn in Los Angeles, Short Movie is liberally sprinkled with rhetorical questions, not all of them directed at Marling herself.

Most are, however. The panicky New York scenario “False Hope” sets the tone, with its query, “Is it still okay that I don’t know how to be alone?”, revealing the lingering anxiety of solitude lurking behind the punchy drums and electric guitar that constitute her first full-on folk-rock exercise.

Elsewhere, the need for companionship prompts the opposite response, a sort of anti-magnetic effect best expressed in “Warrior”, where over acoustic guitar and a swirl of shivery ambient noise she adopts the role of a wild horse rejecting an unworthy rider. “I’m just a horse with no name,” she concludes: “Some place, there’s some other beasts that think the same.”

 

This conflicting need for independence within affection, thrown into stark relief during her self-imposed exile, is one thematic mainspring driving this Short Movie, with Marling adopting a wry, ironic talking-blues delivery as she muses on the responsibilities of love (“Do you know how hard that is?”) in “Strange”, where the conga-driven strumming recalls the drive of the late Richie Havens, and the bluesy “Don’t Let Me Bring You Down”.

The other interest, unsurprisingly given her history of relentless self-examination, is Marling on Marling, whether sketching her American situation in the wry “Gurdjieff’s Daughter”, reflecting on her youth in “Easy”, or confronting her motives on the title-track, where a thread of cello follows her through chugging acoustic guitars as she poses the album’s most painful rhetorical question, “Who do you think you are? Just a girl who can play guitar.” It crystallises the nagging self-doubts that accompany being a small fish in such a big pond, but thankfully Marling reaches a positive conclusion: “It’s a short f**king movie, man... I will try and take it slow.”

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