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