Short Movie is Laura Marling’s fifth album and is probably her most accessible and concise yet. It comes off the back of ‘False Hope’, the second single, which I found to be enjoyable and forward-thinking, sounding more like PJ Harvey than her traditional folk. However, after listening back to the previous single and the new one I was worried that ‘False Hope’ was indeed false hope of Laura Marling pushing forward the sound she’s been running with since 2008. And mostly, my suspicions were confirmed upon listening to Short Movie. The sound will be familiar for those who listened to ‘Once I Was An Eagle’, with a slight electric twist on the acoustic songs. It has more of a resemblance to Marling’s singer-songwriter peers such as Sharon Van Etten, Angel Olson and Courtney Barnett rather than Stories from the City…-era PJ Harvey. Initially I was disappointed, but eventually I grew to like the slight alteration of sound from Laura Marling in that it is a comfortable listen that won’t exceed expectations, but the electricity of certain songs such as ‘Worship Me’ and ‘Walk Alone’, which are meandering and moody ballads, kept me invested for what the album has to hold.
Album opener ‘Warrior’ doesn’t set things off terribly well. Marling expresses her discontent with a partner, saying ‘I’m not your horse anymore / You’re not the warrior I’ve been looking for’. Marling sets herself up as a strong figure almost akin to Amy from Gone Girl of all people. She’s disheartened by the other person in the relationship as if they aren’t performing to her expectations. This is backed by typically heavily-plucked acoustic guitar and ghostly echoes. The acoustic guitar is undoubtedly Laura Marling throughout Short Movie, with tracks like ‘I Feel Your Love’ and ‘Don’t Let Me Bring You Down’ sounding more like ‘Once I Was An Eagle’ than the ‘heavier’ tracks such as ‘False Hope’ and ‘Gurdjieff’s Daughter’. ‘Strange’ is reminiscent of older tracks, more so like ‘Ghosts’, arguably Marling’s most successful song. It returns to the half-spoken, half-sung vocals and folkish instrumentals. This backwards track is mostly unnecessary and floats by without a trace.
‘Walk Alone’ is one of the new electric tracks, but it still retains the finger-picked folkery, so it merges the old with the new in an interesting way. However, at one point Marling dives into her upper register when singing ‘I just need a little more time’, which comes off as a slightly awkward thing to listen to. It breaks what else is a beautiful song backed by strings. Orchestration still plays a bit part in Laura Marling songs and is an easy way to beef up some of the softer songs, but it never becomes tiresome and sits in the background dreamily. Short Movie is quite a dreamy album. It never goes super loud and just blends and merges between sounds and results in a much tighter album than previous albums. Compared to Once I Was An Eagle, Short Movie is actually a much shorter album, 13 minutes is a big chunk of time when it comes to albums The album doesn’t suffer for it at all. Marling packs in all of the topics that she usually covers: love and everything that comes with it. Marling never fails to offer a grounded and often blunt opinion on relationships.
What we have here is a case of Angles. The Strokes released the peppy and exciting single ‘Under Cover of Darkness’ and then followed it up with a bland and unconvincing album. Whilst I wouldn’t go as far as to call Short Movie a ‘bland and unconvincing album’, it does soil my view when ‘False Hope’ was so exciting to hear. Instead, Marling remains within her realm of ghost-folk and whilst this doesn’t shatter her image, it is disappointing. However, saying that, Short Movie is a cohesive and fun album to listen to. When Marling sings ‘Do I look like I am fucking around?’ on ‘Don’t Let Me Bring You Down’ it sums up Short Movie neatly. Marling is still the dominant figure and not someone to be messed with. She also keeps up her record of not making a bad record yet.