MAGNET’s #13 Album Of 2017: Laura Marling’s “Semper Femina”

In interviews, Laura Marling often says that she only speaks when absolutely necessary and takes that verbal discipline seriously. Her music is emotionally dense, expressing a full range of feeling, but it’s lyrically sparse with a sense of plainspoken poetry. The songs here investigate the ideas of gender and sexuality, maintaining a fluid stance that allows her to explore the difference between the emotions we feel and the way we choose to manifest them. “Nouel” surveys the wounds a thoughtless lover can inflict on those who care for her, with Marling’s simple, lilting vocal conveying a sense of quiet anguish. A booming drum loop and shimmering electric guitar introduce “Wild Fire,” a tale of unrequited love that’s delivered in a jazzy flow that falls before and behind the song’s measured tempo. Marling gets a lot of press for the passionate intensity of her vocals, but her skills on the guitar are just as impressive. On Semper Femina, she complements her burnished vocals with a solid display of fingerpicking prowess marked by showers of arpeggios and bluesy notes full of sliding overtones. On electric, she drops some solid rhythmic chord clusters and even a hint of country twang into the mix. —j. poet