The muse is an interesting concept in (mainly Greek) mythology. Originally goddesses, the muses turned into beautiful women that gave the spark of inspiration to mainly male artists. Even though one could see the role of the muse from a feminist standpoint – after all, the male artist is and can create nothing without the female input – it still stings as soon as you think of all the creative and scientific achievements of men that were created on women’s backs or even stolen from women.
In her newest album, Laura Marling thinks about these fickle creatures aka women (if you translate “semper femina”, you get this meaning) and those women that inspired her on her way. Laura Marling is not only a great artist. She is also conceptual in a way that goes beyond music. In the least few years she released a charming podcast called “Reversing the Muse” which covers interviews with women in music and especially women behind the music, e.g. sound engineers, producers, etc. Inspired by these women, she dealt with the topic of the muse on her album, finally reverting the male-female-story of the muse and recreating the muse as an equally artistic woman who inspires other artists.
Together with the podcast and the album, we also get a visual in form of three music videos directed by Laura Marling herself. Since I really loved Jesca Hoop’s lovely miniature thriller-drama (thrama, thrima?) for “Memories are now”, I immediately compared the music videos and eventually the albums as well.
Just as with her music, Jesca Hoop draws you in immediately with a powerful story (and her incredibly alluring melodies). It doesn’t take more than 5 seconds to fall in love with Jesca Hoop’s album. It took me a little longer, however, to really dive into the often subtle and highly symbolic nature of Laura Marling’s music. Her music videos are equally mystifying at times and work more with a hard to describe feeling and very strong color-schemes than a storyline or real characters. Laura Marling feels a little more sensual, tender, whereas Jesca Hoop has strong ideas that immediately grip you. And guess what: there’s no need to pit them against each other. For me, the comparison is interesting not to find out “who wore it better” but how different styles and ways and inspirations can still have a strong emotional impact and result in such strong pieces of art.
Btw, this is also the main reason why I don’t do “places” on my best of lists. If I like an album, I like it, I don’t need to make it fight with another album to prove its worth.