Of all popular music genres, none, except perhaps for jazz, is as traditionalist as folk. Since the genre’s hippie-crazed golden age during the mid-to-late ‘60s, artists and audiences alike have been playing catch-up. Of course, today, cleanly recorded acoustic instrumentation tends to read as archaic and dull to most mainstream audiences, especially when presented without the pop pomp of hitmakers like Mumford & Sons and the Lumineers, but the genre nonetheless continues to grow quietly in the background thanks to innovative young talent.

Laura Marling, while still young, already has an impressive five albums to her name — the first released when she was just 18 years old. She doesn’t exactly mesh with the more recent crop of fresh-faced indie singer-songwriters recontextualizing the sounds and conventions of folk with subversive arrangements and production, but she brings something else to the stagnating genre: a youthful spark to its dusty, tired approach. It’s something that can only manifest itself in the modern age, when musical histories are so openly revered and readily accessible to anyone willing to learn from them. Marling, as a still developing but vital songwriter, makes an effort to return to the origins of a genre that has always been compulsively indebted to its roots.

Marling’s latest record, Short Movie, is a reverent take on the folk music of days gone by, a product of a keen traditionalist with an ingrained sense for the genre’s legacy. Instead of being rebellious and individualistic, Short Movie is joyfully preservational: Marling sings with Joni Mitchell’s smooth, floaty intonation and plays guitar with the solemn intricacy of Nick Drake on opener “Warrior,” embraces barren, vintage desert rock textures on “Howl” and tackles Joan Baez’s bristling, country-tinged sound all throughout the album. Thematically, Marling deals with familiar territory, but with a fresh authenticity: she drains herself reflecting on past love on rollicking folk rock jam “Don’t Let Me Bring You Down” (“Love seems to be some kind of trickery/ Some great thing to which I am a mystery/ I’m not sure I can do it/ You had it on me once before, only just got through it”), indulges in further nostalgia on “Easy” (“You fell asleep listening to me linger on/ About how it used to be in the backseat when we were young”), and juxtaposes it with a celebration of individualism and the value of self-respect on “Warrior” (“I can’t be your horse anymore/ You’re not the warrior I’ve been looking for/ I see what you mean to do with me/ I cannot protect you from who you want to be”). It’s accurate in more ways than one to say that Marling shows talent and wisdom beyond her years.

Of course, while the album is deeply beholden to the traditions of the genre, there are some attempts to lend a more contemporary sound to the classic folk sound permeating Short Movie. Beyond the more rock-leaning tracks, songs like “False Hope” and “Gurdjieff’s Daughter” add in lush reverb to the instruments and vocals, creating a stormy undercurrent that gives them a more unique sonic imprint. Short Movie induces a similar trance state on the listener, but minor adjustments to the production make it feel slightly more modern, at least.

Still, in terms of vintage-styled contemporary folk music, it doesn’t get much more simple or enjoyable than Short Movie. The album has all the genre trappings to satisfy loyalists and enough warm, accessible charm to entice new listeners. Marling trades off delicate melodies with stern wit and dour, ambling ballads with empowering, upbeat numbers for a sprawling, adventurous work that revisits the sounds of golden age folk without betraying modern tastes. Tradition in music is so often tame and predictable; Short Movie returns passion to all the old folk conventions, making them vital and expressive once again.

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