Marling is artful at remaining cloaked.
Label: More Alarming Records
Released: 10th March 2017
Womanhood is a topic that Laura Marling embraces; her sixth album takes its title from an excerpt from Virgil‘s poem Aeneid – “varium et mutabile semper femina” – meaning “woman is always a fickle and changeable thing.” She reclaimed this phrase and took ‘Semper Femina’ (‘Always a Woman’) for her art, even getting the phrase inked on her thigh.
She sings in narratives throughout, but there is always a longing to discover something. Atop the palm-muted notes of ‘Always This Way’, she ponders: “I’d like to know if she had to go / or if she made a point to.”
More questions are asked on the melodically finger-picked ‘Wild Once’, about a time forgotten, where “You will sit down to explain it / And you’re constantly asking ‘Why?’”
‘Nouel’, meanwhile, is a bard-like adoration to the divine titular character, taking Virgil’s line in its final verse: “I do well to serve Nouel / My only guiding star / Fickle and changeable / Semper femina.” It could be Marling personifying women and womanhood; her comments on the creative process of the album hint at this: “It’s me looking specifically at women and feeling great empathy towards them and by proxy towards myself.”
For all the candid moments on ‘Semper Femina’, the mystery that shrouds it feels like the coy singer-songwriter still doesn’t want to reveal quite everything. In every track there is a vulnerability, but Marling is artful in remaining cloaked. Connor McDonnell