Songs for Our Daughter, Laura Marling’s seventh full-length record, wasn’t supposed to be here. But a lot of things haven’t happened the way they were supposed to lately, and while many artists pushed album dates back out of valid touring and promotional concerns, Marling made the decision to release early. “In light of the change to all our circumstances, I saw no reason to hold back on something that, at the very least, might entertain, and at its best, provide some sense of union,” she said as she released the record’s only single, “Held Down.”

“Held Down” opens with Laura Marling’s voice, which strikes a balance between melodic and conversational in a way rivalling Joni Mitchell. Her phrasing recalls “Wild Fire” off Marling’s excellent 2017 record Semper Femina. The lyrics, too, are casual, even as they address a departed lover: “I woke up, it was four in the morning/ Clear as hell that you’d already gone.” There’s embittered humor in the line, even as an angelic chorus harmonizes on the word “gone.” Thanks to Marling’s talent for tone, it’s a little funny and a little sad at the same time.

The narrator on this record has seen enough of the world to be weary, but she’s wise enough to know when to laugh and when to cry. As such, Marling’s sly humor is a subtle but key presence, even as she sings about how “only the strong survive” over somber, nostalgic guitar picking. As the title suggests, many of these songs address a future daughter, attempting to prepare someone for the world that awaits them. And so, the acquired cynicism is tempered by the hope for the future. After singing, “Only the strong survive…/ We’ve been here a thousand times,” Marling makes a turn in the chorus, her voice reaching new heights: “I hope that you can change my mind.

Throughout Songs for Our Daughter, Marling juxtaposes percussive guitar and lush string arrangements, the latter becoming more prominent toward the end of the record. At times, they risk swallowing Marling’s captivating voice and wry, often-extraordinary observations. However, when balanced by the tactility of Marling’s guitar playing, they often lend a touch of the sublime to these recordings, as on the title track, on which you can hear the scratching sound of Marling’s fingers sliding along the fretboard underneath swelling strings. In this way the recording prevents the song from floating away on those strings, grounding the song in something tangible.

This tactility is part of what makes the record so approachable. The record manages to utilize the string arrangements without sounding over-produced. This, combined with the intimate tone of Marling’s voice and lyrics makes the record sound not only inviting but comforting in particularly trying times. It’s easy to see why Marling decided to release the record several months ahead of schedule. The scratch of her acoustic underneath those swelling strings is emblematic of Songs for Our Daughter as a whole. It’s a record steeped in the pain of experience, but buoyed by hope.

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