“A thousand artists’ muse/But you’ll be
anything you choose” observes Laura Marling on the title track of Semper
Femina, which ditches male pronouns to focus on women’s relationships with
one another. It’s a timely set, especially for a Brit who makes the U.S. a
part-time home. You can hear the double-life: Nick Drake ghosts “The
Valley,” while Joni Mitchell remains a touchstone (“Nouel”).
Producer Blake Mills highlights Marling’s guitar while adding his own. But
her own voice just grows stronger, literally and figuratively: On “Wild
Fire,” advising a lover or frenemy to “stop playing that shit out on
me,” she’s a wordy folk-soul queen of entirely her own making.