“Keep those eyes wide” : First impressions of Laura Marling’s ‘Short Movie’

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Artwork for Laura Marling’s new release, Short Movie

Hello, there! Hope you are well, anonymous internet presence. Since my last post, I have begun a ‘proper’ editorial job and am training with a lovely group of journalists, working for a trade publication. This means I have a bit more money in the pot; I can finally start listening to music again! It’s not that I’m completely opposed to the free distribution of file sharing/music online, I’m just not tech-savvy enough. Sad, I know. I’m like your dad. Although I lie, the following record was sent to me by a very generous music journo in the business, whom shall not be named lest I get stuck in a sticky legal situation. Thanks for reading! – T.A.L x


It’s important background information for you to know how big a fan I am of Laura Marling before you start reading.

I was sent the download file for her newly-released album, Short Movie, last week – and had to restrain from listening to it for three whole days – lest my heart couldn’t cope with how good it could be (last week was full of numerous pulled heartstrings.) ((NB: Not to be confused with hamstrings, having not exercised since 2013.))

Laura Marling’s music was solely responsible for the reason I begged my dad to get me a guitar for my 13th birthday. Up until now, the cheap-ish acoustic-electric model has sufficed, emulating (attempting) her style and learning all of her earlier, folkier sounding stuff, dedicating evenings after school, to record, re-record, film and then NEVER show to the world. Carpe diem! Rock n roll!

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On this album, we begin to hear a more plugged-in, electric direction, on tracks such as False Hope and Don’t Let Me Bring You Down along with some wonderfully placed microphone synth effects on the opener, Warrior. I’m a total sucker for an opening track – something I’ve pretty much disclosed to everyone I’ve ever met – and this opener totally sucks me in (ha ha, writing!)

Warrior hooks me in with its confident minor chords and fantastically year 8 angst-sounding introductory lyrics:

“I stumble some way on, licking my sores,
Tasting the memory of pain I have endured
Wondering where am I to go?”

I wrote the opening track of an album called ‘Hard to be Human’ when I was 12, with a lyric of MINE  I distinctively remember as:

“The nights are not getting any brighter,
To face you life you have to be a fighter
And I guess that you always knew that,
It’s hard work to be human”

 ALMOST on the same level, RIGHT?!

Anyway, I digress.

 Track 2, False Hope, is Laura Marling really sounding like herself – and as a long-term fan – this makes me fist pump and feel an immense sense of pride in someone only a fan who’s-never-met-the-person gets. Ironically, the lyric “Is it still okay that I don’t know how to be at all?” leaves me flabbergasted, as I have never heard a song about uncertainty sound quite so certain.

The third track, I Feel Your Love, demonstrates the intricate, guitar picking style that she’s become well-known for, further mastering her skill as both a gifted musician and songwriter. Is this sounding like the most biased piece of writing ever? I tried to write this last night but had to go to bed with a flannel on my forehand because:

LM

“She’s just everything.”

The track ‘Strange’ has Laura RAPPING (almost) which sounds really fresh and feels very inspired by her time spent in LA. There’s something a little Kimya Dawson about the spoken-wordiness of it all, The Moldy Peaches being a band I’ve read she’s felt influenced by. The open chord sounds she reverts back to in this song hint back at her third album, A Creature I Don’t Know, which took a lot from Joni Mitchell, whom I love, too.

For me, Don’t Let Me Bring You Down is a huge stand-out track, for no other reason other than: I just keep playing it.

“Are you really not anybody until somebody knows your name?” – how wonderfully concise yet right on the spot.

This song has made me bookmark electric guitars on eBay, with lots of 7th chords and blissful Sunday-appropriate progressions. Five years later, I’m still buying my guitars based on where Laura Marling is musically.

Gurdjieff’s Daughter, track 8, is a song that I can imagine a band like Belle & Sebastian covering. There’s something about the wide, orchestral sound that would suit Stuart Murdoch’s voice perfectly, combined with a cheesy fade out at the end. Still very much sounding like her, but a very pleasing shift in direction.

Track 9, “sending shivers down my spine” is Divine, and is divine (ha ha, writing!) Being raised on early-mid Beatles, my head swoons at any seventh chord, especially in a love song: “You’re fine – I’m yours and you’re mine.”

All in all, the real sentiment of this album is summed up on ‘How Can I’ with: “I’m taking more risks now / I’m stepping out of line / I’m putting up my fists now, until I get what’s mine.” She also sings on the track about “going back east where I belong” which makes me feel like pinpointing her directly and welcoming her back with my very own open arms, right into British festival season that’s approaching at a very exciting pace. I look forward to seeing her at this year’s End of the Road, my third time at the Dorset festival, where I’m sure she’ll bliss me the hell out and I’ll feel particularly lucky to be alive for an hour amidst yurts and frozen yoghurt tents.

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Short Movie is a total success; I’d give it 4.5/5 for its confidence and ability to both empower and reveal vulnerability all at once – something Laura has become expert at – as heard in her past 4 albums. She said in an interview recently that as a teenager she was often branded as ‘elfin’, ‘innocent’ and ‘good for her age’ – but this record proves she is, oh, SO, much more than that. SO much. Can she be my sister? I’ve always wanted a sister.

If anything, this review shows that I can sneak the word ‘flabbergasted’ into a piece of writing, (no mean feat, I assure you!) – my first ‘proper’ music review – one of which I hope will be the first of many.

“Can I write a piece about you now that you’ve made it?” – A review of Belle & Sebastian’s new record!

(Caitlin Moran said something once about if you want to be a writer, you must learn how to be a writer on a treadmill, lest you will die from eating biscuits. I feel the same applies to a gap year.)

A still from the band's new video, Nobody's Empire.
A still from the band’s new video, Nobody’s Empire.

Hi hello hi! I haven’t written for around 2 months, but I’m back today for a specific reason- we have had the new Belle & Sebastian album unleashed to us, and I couldn’t help but take a listen, in the same way that I can’t help but eat another biscuit. It’s called Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, which we so do, and it’s released on Matador next week. I feel guilty, and ashamed as J pre-ordered the LP for me for Christmas, but I still couldn’t help but take a listen. In a way that a New Year often promises a feeling of fresh starts and beginnings, it seldom does compared to the excitement behind a new album, especially when it’s their ninth studio album, and the previous 8 have been highly regarded as ‘my jam.’

I saw them play in Paris, Halloween 2014, where they played some of the new material- much to the approval of myself and Ella, and these 2 or 3 European guys who we befriended for the night, quietly discussing beforehand which was our favourite B-side as we sat on the ground in our cardigans so we were near the front (we weren’t in cardigans but let’s just create the twee dream.)

The album opens with Nobody’s Empire, and although not initially loving it, I now really really rate it, especially as an opening track. I think I wasn’t listening to it at all at first, I was just playing it as background music, tossing my hair back like ‘Zzuuh, nothing will ever beat The Model, or whatever.’ But then I played it, thought about it, listening to the lyrics along with the lovely Marx-and-Engels-y piano, and decided I was into it, really hard. Essentially, an autobiographical song about the frontman of your favourite band, is the best thing ever in a fangirl sense. The song talks about Stuart’s struggle with ME, dealing with a chronic illness, lying in bed feeling all useless,

“I was like a child, I was light as straw
When my father lifted me up there
Took me to a place where they checked my body
My soul was floating in thin air”

Very cool. A great opening choice, it reminds me of Thunder Road, the notorious opener of Born to Run by Springsteen, with it’s storytelling-y, piano-y beginning, into a big sounding, life affirming sound as the song builds and builds. Also he sings, “If I had a camera I’d snap you now, cause there’s beauty in every stumble”, which makes me swoon- BECAUSE I AM ALWAYS STUMBLING, METAPHORICALLY AND PHYSICALLY.

Track 2 is called Allie, supposedly the female perspective in which Stuart writes from for this album. I can’t possibly comment on this track as it opens with Stevie, ‘ba-da-da’ing, which is too much for a fangirl. You’re just like, OMG! It’s Stevie! And he’s ba-da-ing!

Anyway. What I can disclose about this song, what I like about it, is the same old, trusted B&S formula- which is all like, ‘Angry girl gets angry about things and we sing about it with pretty 60’s melodies and instruments.’ It just works, “You made a list of all your heroes & you thought about what they went through/ It’s much harder, much darker than anything that happened to you.” I can relate to that, I’m ashamed to admit. That frustration of being a teenager and wanting anything ANYTHING to happen to you, no matter what, it’s just something that will trigger you to move out, or write a song, or get a haircut. Kind of wanting to pursue the *ahem* struggle of something to get a story, if anything, out of it- but then in reality just sitting around in your pants eating Wotsits watching Netflix. Adolescence.

Next up, The Party Line! This is the first single released from the record, so if you haven’t heard it already, you probably already have in H&M or something. (I’m not denouncing them as sell-outs, I did actually hear this in H&M, and internally squealed, bopping my head in a nervous, twitchy sort of way for 3 minutes, probably looking like I’d shoplifted something.) I totally hated this song when I first heard it, and mourned the loss of my band- before the curse of the fangirl hit and I was like- HEY!! GUYS!! CALM IT! IT’S JUST A DIFFERENT DIRECTION!’ I thought it was too repetitive and tinny-sounding, and nothing *sigh* like Judy and the Dream of Horse *sigh*, but then I got over it, and now it’s my alarm. It dances me out of bed, every day. Favourite line goes to: “Where were you when I was king in this part of town?” I love the idea of fallen popularity, the more local the better; being ‘famous’ within the teenage population of your hometown. Just for wearing a cool leather jacket, shaving your head, etc.

The Power of Three is lovely, and Sarah is singing. The Cat With the Cream has some lovely, beautiful melodies with some sacred sounding strings. Enter Sylvia Plath is a total mess, and sounds like the Pet Shop Boys, but hey, I’ll probably love it by next week. The Everlasting Muse is a fantastic load of fun, with a Greek sounding chorus, a sound favoured by me and my friends, who happily danced to Zorba the Greek and Dominick the Donkey, on repeat for a long time on New Year’s Eve. Before I get quoted on that, it doesn’t sound remotely like Zorba the Greek, but hey, I am not equipped to write serious, proper album reviews. It just reminded me of NYE. This is a first listen, OK, guys.

Perfect Couples has the perfect (lol) Sympathy for the Devil sounding introduction, before it explodes into BASICALLY THE BEST PARTY SONG OF 2015. Maybe not a party party song, but the song to play as you set out the cheese before the party. It could so be in a musical. Oh, a Belle & Sebastian musical. They played this in Paris to a background montage of a very stylish, very choreographed scene of a living room party. It was all just très cool, bèbè.

The next song, Ever Had a Little Faith?, was so perfect for today, and is good, old fashioned B&S, with lyrics so perfect for rainy bus journeys, “Something good will happen, wait and see/ Do you spend your days second guessing fate?” & “Drop your sad pretence/ You’ll be doing fine, you will flourish like a rose in June.”

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Aural proof new albums provide more hope than a new year ever could. (The last 3 tracks also exist for you to stream, along with all the above tracks I’ve spoken about, but I have a to-do list the length of my leg. Also, with my ideal album at 35 minutes, the running time of just over an hour is too much for my ears and their poor stamina)

Stream it here:

In other news, I’m glad Christmas is over, spent 4 nights  in 2 different hotels in the past 7 days, was in Dublin last week, am in London twice this week and in Cambridge at the weekend to see First Aid Kit, again. Things could be worse.

Thanks for staying with me, if you did (which if you’re reading this- you did! So like, uh, thanks!)

T.A.L x

 

~ How I adore you *camera Obscura* I’ll turn you up to eleven ~

TAGLINE: ~A really really half-hearted unworthy post about Camera Obscura’s wonderful new release, ‘Desire Lines’~

camera-obscura1I haven’t post for a week or whatever, because I’ve been busy trying to perfect my puttanesca sauce, learning lines for this ol’ play I’m in, and listening to Camera Obscura’s new album Desire Lines.

Since pasta is carb-y therefore not particularly stylish, Shakespeare is old therefore not so rad, I guess Camera Obscura are hip enough to write about (by hip I mean really fucking good, as in- I can’t listen to anything else until I’ve learnt at least all of the lyrics to the first side.)

OKAY: I can’t remember where I first heard Obscura, but I presume it was as a recommendation I read when scouring Belle & Sebastian fan pages for days and days when I was 15 (I pretend I’m no longer like that, but I sort of am)

With most pieces about bands, it’s nice to read what the first album the writer heard was because usually it’s kind of accessible and a good place for the ever faithful reader to begin

‘Let’s Get out of this Country’, released in 2006 is perfection, every song is wonderful, AND REALLY EASY TO PLAY ON GUITAR, but I’m tired and it’s Sunday and my brain is coping with two hangovers so just shut up and listen:

‘Dory Previn’

‘Razzle Dazzle Rose’

‘voir tout en rose’

But of more importance, let’s talk about Desire Lines- because I’ve overplayed it to such an extent that I can’t properly write anything of value about their former stuff.

Let’s talk about ‘New Years Resolution’

New Year’s Resoultion to write something of value

A new year’s resolution to write something would be fine

&

You offer a friendship I cannot reciprocate

So don’t beg me in a garden for it not to end this way

&

I’ve been cool with you

I’ve been cool with you

I’ve been cool with you

Which is so wonderful and perfect, ‘I’ve been cool with you’

It seems older and her vocals stronger than aforementioned ‘Lets get out of this Country’ and it has come and SUCH a relevant time in my life, (which I can’t really talk about on here being the internet and really not private etc.) All for which makes a really bad, bad, post.

Still I love you all. And I’ll keep coming back to WordPress, I promise. For now though, please go and buy it. Walk to a shop and buy it. It’s really worth your wages.

Spiderman is having me for dinner tonight

I often find I have to listen to music in order to feel motivated to do anything. This makes me feel good, because I remember Caitlin Moran once tweeted something along the lines of ‘How much fleetwood mac am I going to have to listen to today to be able to write’, so I feel like I’m well on my way

The problem is is what do I listen to? I have this condition where I often become addicted to pressing the skip button on my ipod, like some kind of repetitive push fetish, and within 20 seconds i’m on track 184 of shuffle songs- PROPERLY INFURIATING

This is why I’ve recently got into anything other than iPods of recent- mainly to calm down my fickle mind. To sit down and properly listen to an entire album, soaking up every chord and progession, oh. Yes.

I’ve put Disintegration on. The Cure are playing at Reading/Leeds, which is a standalone reason to go- but I didnt want to pay £200 to be in a field full of people singing along to Paramore. I guess I should stop hating so bad

I think this album is pretty close to being some kind of spiritual experience, without being reggae. It’s one of those albums that has been able to provide me with all I’ve needed Cure-wise for the last three years or so. I’ve quietly dabbled in and out of this band, so I suppose that helped, but I’ve never really felt the need to have to listen to anything else by them. This is different to the Smiths- The Queen is Dead lasted about a year, I overplayed it way too much so HAD TO find some new material (Meat is Murder, THEN Strangeways and the debut consecutively. Reel Around The Fountain would be a desert island disc, if I ever found myself on a desert island and I was fortunately prepared with 10 favourite records.

Anyway Cure cure cure cure

Oh, Picture Of You has just begun. This song makes me cry. Baby cry properly cry. I’ve said properly quite a lot today, haven’t I? If you  can be bothered to count, comment back how many times I’ve said it and I’ll read your blog or whatever. As long as it can make me laugh.

I’ve been looking so long at these pictures of you I can almost believe that they’re real

How could anyone possibly look this good and write so beautifully?

There’s something so wrong about this band that is so wrong, which makes it very right. The lyrics are heartbreaking and the melodic background is so painful- and if you can really be bothered to listen it can feel worse than a break-up, a fucking terrible imaginary stab in the heart. Maybe its not the same for anyone else, but I guess I’m quite dramatic

sometimes you make me feel like i’m living at
the edge of the world like i’m living at the edge
of the world “it’s just the way i smile” you said
Christ, why deal with actual boys when you can fall in love with records
If I was going to get all polyvore about the situation this is what I’d wear whilst chilling/crying/sobbing to The Cure
spiderman is having me for dinner tonight
I know it wasn’t all about black, but thats definetely how I feel when I hear the music,
Finally- I’m going to leave you with this video. Be prepared to be very seduced. Stay classy GB x