The Five Best Tracks of 2016:
Laura Marling - Soothing
THE remainder of this feature will showcase 2016 tracks by…
the boys of music. I mention gender because a lot of the best and memorable music of this year has been made by female artists – in fact, the vast majority. There are few out there are as consistent, skilled and astonishing as our very own Laura Marling. Not to say Laura Marling’s inclusion is an unexpected thing: any year she releases music and she’s going to be on a ‘Best of’ list. Short Movie was her last, extraordinary, album released last year. Ever since her debut – Alas, I Cannot Swim in 2008 – she has been overwhelming critics and producing genius work. In fact, her five albums to date are all immaculate: the work of a mature and intelligent songwriter who has few peers; never stands still and is one of the, if not the very best, finest songwriters of this generation. I was unsure whether we’d hear anything from Marling in 2016: the fact the lead-off single from Semper Femina – her next album scheduled for release in March – is among us is an early Christmas treat. The reason it makes my list of favourite tracks of this year – my fifth-favourite, in fact – is because it is both ultra-Marling-esque and somehow not. Anyone expecting a re-derivation of Short Movie’s sound will be a little disappointed. Soothing is all manner of twanging bass and edginess; an underlying mood of sensuality – if that is the right word?! Before assessing the new track – and why it makes my elite list – Marling said, in a press release: “I started out writing Semper Femina as if a man was writing about a woman,” going on to say: “And then I thought it’s not a man, it’s me — I don’t need to pretend it’s a man to justify the intimacy of the way I’m looking and feeling about women. It’s me looking specifically at women and feeling great empathy towards them and by proxy towards myself.” The latex-clad, self-directed video is almost as intriguing as the Jazz-like twangs that beckon a sweet and beckoning vocal. Marling castigates a man who doesn’t live “here anymore”. One of her most beautiful and tender performances yet: the heroine’s lips “aren’t moving” – someone who needs soothing against the fractious vicissitudes of the world. Maybe an open-hearted confession of lost love or loneliness – you are entranced by the voice-and-string combination. Enigmatic, vivid and dramatic: another instant and memorable Laura Marling song. Compacted notes and taut strings seem at odds against a calm and floating vocal: the combination not only works wonderfully but elevates the song and makes it completely inescapable. By the end, you want to play it again and witness that vocal one more time; another chance to hear that alluring composition; another chance to picture what the song is describing. It is a song that not only proves Marling is one of the most productive and staggering songwriters around – still in her 20s - to all you upcoming songwriters – but how versatile she is. Whether Semper Femina’s remaining tracks have a similar feel and sound is yet to be revealed. Its lead-off single shows Marling has not lost a step and will produce yet another world-class, beat-her-if-you-dare album.
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The album, Semper Femina, will be available in March