THE OPENING track 'Soothing' lives up to its name, but its languid, bass-led, rhythms, and Marling's sultry croon are something of a red herring. Unlike this song, wonderful though it is, the album will not be an indie-pop/jazz hybrid.
It is second track, the pastroal, bucolic, 'The Valley' which shows Semper Femina's true heart. Over rolling acoustic guitar arpeggios, behind which a river of strings ebb, float, and flow, Marling ponders an estranged friendship, but with appreciation, never bitterness: "I would love you in the evening/if only you would stay...I love you in the evening/and I will do my very best."
The album is Marling's meditation on womanhood, through country-soul ('Wild Fire' ) and folk-pop ('Next Time' ), and strong nods towards the 1970s Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter scene ('Nouel' ) - at each stage Marling's guitar playing is dexterous and impressive; her vocal melodies inspired, being pleasing to ear, while also containing maturity and emotional weight.
The Americana is off-set by the mischevious 'Wild One', where Marling, adopting an exaggerated English accent, declares, or is that reminds, listeners: "I was wild once and I can't forget it.' Her finest album to date? A contender for album of the year? Yes is the answer to both.