Love in all its forms is a strange emotion. At times, it can be gentle, at other times it can be fierce and terrifying. Love is a difficult story to try and tell, especially when love has left us – when we are left only with the memories, how do we discuss the good and the bad without letting the truths we felt to be tinged by nostalgia or bitterness?
Laura Marling’s new album Semper Femina explores love and the female identity. The title comes from the Latin phrase for “woman is ever a fickle and changeable thing,” and it’s not just women who are ever changing, it’s the love stories they become embroiled in that can find themselves to mutuate.
‘Soothing’ sets off the tone of the album with throbbing bass lines and vaguely unsettling melodies, contradicting its titular theme. Whereas ‘The Valley’ wraps itself around your eardrums with guitars and violins, combined with Marling’s melancholy vocals about a lover gone away – it’s a tale as old as time, and feels as such, even with mentions of phone numbers. Ultimately, it’s about love being a constant effort.
‘Wild Fire’ is a portrait of a woman always on the cusp of dreaming – pencils carried for novels yet to be written, but portraits say more about their creator than the subject. Marling only cares about the stories that involve her. The portraits we create are often made up of the impressions we’ve collected “I know your mama’s kinda sad/And your papa’s kinda mean.”
‘Always This Way’ reflects the melancholy tone of the album, as Marling softly wonders if her pondering is a waste of time. “Twenty-five more / Will I never learn from it / learn from my mistakes?” is sure to resonate with anyone who has ever found themselves suffering from existential angst in the aftermath of a break-up.
‘Wild Once’ and ‘Next Time’ are played back to back, for good reason. Two different musings on freedom: the first, watching and the second, reflecting. It’s a promise Marling makes, to do better next time.
‘Nothing, Not Nearly’ with electric guitar riffs is the most fast-paced song on the album, about loss and memories. A year’s worth of memories result in the realisation that nothing matters as much as love.
The narratives on this album are about loving women, but more importantly, it’s about loving as a woman, and the expectations and stories we weave around those we love.