It’s now March: the sun’s out and my woolly mittens have finally been consigned to the back of my wardrobe, ready to be donned another year. I’m also listening to Laura Marling’s new album, Semper Femina, a record brimming with all of the fresh warmth of an emergence from a wintry hibernation. And boy, is it good to see her back.
Semper Femina (“always woman” in Latin – a provocative reference to Virgil’s epic poem Aeneid in which he refers to women as “always fickle and changeable”) is an ode to the feminine. Yet this is no picket line rallying cry. More deftly and subtly political, Semper Femina exists as an exhibition space in which Marling hangs the snapshot stories and experiences of herself and the women around her; women by women.
Marling herself is a woman drowning and revelling in conflict and contrast: “I banish you with love” she opines in the deliciously enticing ‘Soothing’, “You can’t come in/You don’t live here anymore”. At first more tender than the electric riffs from previous album Short Movie, lyrically these are no gentle waters. Marling’s sharp eye dissects matters of faith and superficiality with piercing critique: “We love beauty ‘cause it needs us to/ It needs our brittle glaze”.
Delicate, cutting, intricate and understated, Marling displays womanhood in all its complexity and ordinariness. If this is what spring sounds like, I can’t wait for summer.