Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

Laura Marling – Short Movie

And no mention of her actual short movie, for shame…


Alfred Soto: A couple of strums edge into Big Star “Kangaroo” territory; the rest is so well coiffed that it’s a wonder it wasn’t included in a 2002 alt-country comp taped to an issue of Uncut.

Edward Okulicz: Marling’s songwriting and performing tics are so appealing to me that I feel a twinge of guilt every time I don’t love a song. This one half-works on the strength of her vocal characteristics (how she drops into speech a couple of times in the first verse is a Marling standby) but it doesn’t feel particularly compelling. Maybe I feel like a woman who has stirred all sorts of emotion over a career of incredibly deep, thoughtful songwriting can’t quite get her mouth or her ideas around “fucking”?

Mo Kim: “It’s kicking off,” Marling sings near the song’s peak: unfortunately it took her three-and-a-half minutes to get there. 

Brad Shoup: She’s got cultural capital, and she intends to spend it. Less of a hunter now than a game warden, Marling surveys the landscape she’s crafted: shaggy midcountry folk, the endless tuning and droning of post-rock strings, rock’s drive (here, mostly suggested by a vigorously brushed kit and a vicious cello), smirking self-reference. There’s no need to keep it concise, not now, maybe not ever, and she seems chuffed to just hang it all out.

Micha Cavaseno: It feels like five really corny songs jostling up against each other, bouncing up and down screaming “ME, PICK ME!”

Luisa Lopez: It’s a cheap trick but it’s a good one: playing that first verse in silence just long enough that the sound of the second comes as a surprise. (Like calling on violins to evoke the sound of birds.) But some songs do build naturally, sprouting from a wandering note then gathering speed and running til there’s no more land. This is one of them.

Jonathan Bogart: The dry pomp of the backing suggests more drama and urgency than I can glean from her half-swallowed lyrics, which circle on themselves with the fragmentary repetition of an argument confined to a single head.

Katherine St Asaph: Laura Marling is perhaps our prickliest songwriter; her thorns are truly the best part of her. It’s not so much that’s she’s reclusive, but her music is; it’s so anti-confessional in a traditionally confessional medium. Like the prototypical titular short film, you’ve got to pursue her songs, study them like a language, meet her not just halfway but 90% (perhaps why so many critics called Once I Was an Eagle boring), and when you get there, half the time all you find is that her secrets remain secret. Her singing, as she’s grown, has matured from received folkie curlicues to an impassive snarl, so deliberately mumbled that all the lyrics sites quote the exact opposite of what she’s saying: I hear “I won’t try and take it slow,” elsewhere “just a girl who can’t play guitar” (which is factually untrue; she went electric for the new LP). In “Short Movie” I hear some shots at the media — the guitar line, for sure, maybe “they know that I loved you but they’ll never know why” given how much ink is expended — still! — on her and Marcus Mumfuck. Moreso, I hear her career-long struggles with reconciling worn-out realism with suppressed romanticism (the bridge, strings and reveries, is the sort of pastoral swoon I’d thought she only missed anymore), with despising playing savior yet ending up there time after time, with “[being able to] get away with only half the things I say” (great line) but inevitably saying the other half, let the mistakes fall where they may. As far as I can tell, “Short Movie” is an old mentor’s mantra (“life’s short,” I think? And we all know what motto that’s adjacent to…) Marling warps into rationale to rush headlong into future mistakes, to maybe-drugs (see: slurred lines; but it is “color drugs,” right?) and dalliances that don’t snatch souls. The steady build-up of the music supports this, but you still get the sense the narrator’s thought this over too carefully for abandon, too reluctantly wise to really swing from that chandelier, which is something I of course relate to bunches. But is any of this at all accurate? She won’t say. Barring some Rat Girl-esque decoder memoir, she may never. Therein lies the key, which unlocks no doors perfectly.

Reader average: [7.2] (5 votes)

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3 Responses to “Laura Marling – Short Movie”

  1. I like Katherine’s blurb, especially the opening two sentences.

  2. “Marling’s songwriting and performing tics are so appealing to me that I feel a twinge of guilt every time I don’t love a song.”
    Nailed it. When this and follow up “False Hope” came out I had to listen to both a bunch of times –especially the latter– before I could like them. Her lyrics are a bit weird and even cringe-y at some lines, which is pretty sad to hear. (killer arrangements though.)

  3. This makes a lot more sense to me within the context of the album.