<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>
With her clear, forthright voice and ringing acoustic guitar (not to mention enormous songwriting smarts), Britain’s Laura Marling has always been a bit intimidating, and this stunning fifth album may be her strongest work yet. Short Movie is an extended meditation on the endless tug of war between the fear of loneliness and the desire to be free from the affections and expectations of others. “Is it still okay that I don’t know how to be alone?” she asks in “False Hope,” while “I Feel Your Love” finds her declaring, “You must let me go before I get old / I need to find someone who really wants to be mine,” throwing cold water on romantic clichés with her usual blunt vigor. In “Don’t Let Me Bring You Down,” she exclaims, “Did you think I was fucking around?” Another cut, “Howl,” finds her parting from a lover in far gentler fashion. Short Movie varies its textures with occasional drums and electric guitar, as well as lovely dashes of cello, but Marling’s restless, relentlessly honest songs remain the main attraction. Despite superficial similarities to the young Joni Mitchell, she’s her own amazing creation, and just keeps getting better.