REVIEW | Mike Lindsay and Laura Marling Deliver Enchantment on ‘Animal’

At just 31 years old, and with an impressive nine albums to her name (seven solo, two collaborative), Laura Marling has becomes, perhaps, Britain’s most recognizable currently-working folk artist. Her latest, and greatest, solo LP – the Grammy nominated ‘Song For Our Daughter’ – looked to the timeless sounds of the past as the backdrop for narrative-rich, descriptive song-writing that utilised small details to devastating emotional impact. Her second collaborative album with Mike Lindsay under the ‘Lump’ moniker threatens to blow that formula out of the water; filled with ambiguous references to the other-worldly set against daring electronics.

Indeed, listening to ‘Animal’, much like listening to ‘Song For Our Daughter’, is like stepping into another world. But, whereas ‘Song For Our Daughter’ was a Folklorian world of escapist fantasies and finding refuge in the woods, ‘Animal’ straddles the line between dream and nightmare; it’s haunting, entrancing and enchanting in equal measure. The lead single – and title track – offers a burst of primal energy, while ‘Red Snakes’ paints a disturbing picture – one inspired by a recurring dream of Marling’s about her mother – where a woman lies trapped in a pool of vicious red snakes. What began as a straightforward anxiety nightmare unfolds into something far more; a meditation on grieving what has been lost:- a theme made all the more apt by the ongoing pandemic.

‘Animal’s’ best moments occur when it takes the abstract and other-worldly (medieval kings, “ancient texts”, mythical, magical figures) and grounds them in reality. ‘Paradise’ features a magical figure on a bus and flying angels, yet also contains some of the album’s most introspective musings (“you mourn for a world that was”). In this mythic, parallel, dreamlike universe the song’s narrators finds themselves in, they discover a universal truth; that following our dreams, while often worth it in the end, is rarely all it’s cracked up to be (“Unbearable though it seems / This is the shape of dreams”). Album highlight ‘We Cannot Resist’, meanwhile is the most grounded track here; a beautiful ode to adolescence and young love (“Kids on the run / Falling for each other / Down to have fun / And out to burn rubber”, “Smiling at each other / That’s the first taste / From which no one will recover”). But, ultimately nearly every point in ‘Animal’s’ otherworldly journey is enjoyable, enchanting and, at times, surprisingly affecting.

Score: 8.2

Best Tracks: ‘We Cannot Resist’, ‘Animal’, ‘Red Snakes’, ‘Paradise’, ‘Bloom At Night’, ‘Climb Every Wall’

Worst Tracks: ‘Gamma Ray’

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