“Varium at mutabile semper femina” – “A woman is an ever fickle and changeable thing”. The origins of the title for Laura Marling’s latest masterpiece encapsulates her vision perfectly. Produced by the richly-gifted Blake Mills, the record serves as an engaging exploration into femininity and female relationships, and throughout, the listener gets a candid look into how Laura feels to be a woman.
Opening with the incredibly sensual ‘Soothing’, Marling immediately commands attention. Jazzy undertones, coupled with sweeping strings and minimalist guitar grooves help make this one of the many highlights of the album.
Marling’s appreciation for the beautiful but complex mind of a woman materialises in songs such as ‘The Valley’ and ‘Nouel’. The former, a melancholic story of love and mourning, the latter being a quirky examination of a mysterious creature who Laura promises to serve, “whatever service she may be”.
It’s at the mid-point of the album, the jaunty yet gorgeous ‘Always Like This’ where we hear Marling fully contemplate her existence – “Lately I wonder if all my pondering has taken up too much ground”. Reflections like these seem to signal a turning point for her as an artist. Her previous records have been equally as thoughtful in their content but she has never sounded so galvanized and assured as she does on Semper Femina.
The other singles from the album ‘Wild Fire’ and ‘’Next Time are rich, rousing reflections which perfectly showcase Laura’s most invaluable tool – that voice. The wonderful, mellow vocals, coupled with innovative musical shapes have become the trademark of every Laura Marling album and Semper Femina is up there with the best examples.
Semper Femina closes in style with ‘Nothing, Not Nearly’. A rousing song of hope, it offers us this musing: “Nothing matters more than love. No nothing. Not nearly.” Thoughtful till the end, Marling teases a look into her future and a determination to embrace freedom (“We’ve not got long you know, to bask in the afterglow”) – a perfect conclusion to this musical journey.
Ever-enchanting and ever-evolving, Laura Marling has once again proven with Semper Femina that she is one of the leading lights in a new wave of contemporary folk music. Simply stunning.
Words: Carly Goodman