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Laura Marling

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  • I Speak Because I Can
  • A Creature I Don't Know
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    Laura Marling

    Alas I Cannot Swim 9 ( 2008 ) more best albums...
    Ghosts / Old Stone / Tap At My Window / Failure / You're No God / Cross Your Fingers / Crawled Out Of The Sea / My Manic And I / Night Terror / The Captain And Hourglass / Shine / Your Only Doll

    Laura Marling emerged with Duffy and Adele as one of the hyped artists of 2008. The difference between Laura Marling and Duffy and Adele is all the kind words are fully justified. Imagine a crowded record shop with speakers blaring out the usual chart stuff. There's hustle and bustle as customers talk above the din, trying to hear themselves and each other. Then, Laura Marling comes on the store radio, perhaps 'Failure'. It sounds so unlike the chart dross that a few discerning customers stop talking and try to listen. Strings permeate the Saturday morning hubbub and a few more customers stop talking. A hush of sorts descends and it's weird that it coincides with an attractive acoustic guitar pattern. I can hear Joni touches during 'Failure' and the majestic 'Night Terror', too. Yet, she doesn't overplay it or repeat herself - the songs are here to tell stories.

    Let's take 'The Captain And The Hourglass', just one of many album highlights. It's so well put together. Opening with an acoustic guitar pattern, her vocals enter immediately setting out the lyrical story-telling. Her voice is warm and sounds authentic in a number of genres simultaneously. There are hints of folk and hints of country. Around the minute mark, a simple piano part adds texture. Towards the two-minute mark, her acoustic playing picks up a notch with renewed purpose, strings faint in the background, hardly heard again. Textures added - a violin enters, a fiddle sails thrillingly away. The song has layers added along the way and ends up an instant classic and an utter triumph. She doesn't labour the point, the song ends. You don't want repetition; you want to yearn for more.

    Laura Marling's father, also a musician, would play her Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan albums during her formative years, pressing home the point that said artists made 'real' music. I listen to Laura Marling and think Richard Thompson, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Nick Cave, Polly Harvey and Eliza Carthy. I listen to the way the strings just shine majestically to add suspense to 'Night Terror'.

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    Readers Comments

    Jamie Hall jjay75@gmail.com
    She is incredible. Theres so much depth to everything she's writing. Its just astounding in every way, by anyones standards. Want to say thank you for introducing me to her music :)

    kieran donnan
    This folk musician was seventeen when she released her My Manic and I E.P. Now I am older than she is, yet she certainly struck a chord with me with this album. She has all the creative qualities of youth and she knows exactly what words to choose at the right moment on some occasions, when to play down her strumming, and best of all she sells her album with mementos of every song and a ticket to see her perform live. Of course this is a limited offer but it demonstrates a very wholesome and colorful side to this new musician. The new single Ghosts, which I heard only a few weeks before I heard the album, is a brighter shade than her earlier release. It has all those characteristic entwined qualities; helplessness, optimism, playfulness and yet a sad sort of melancholy that's further yet balanced with the occasional twinkling glockenspiel. The lyrics- as ever- are lovely and are almost a dialog between two broken-hearted people who lean on each other for a time. It! is of course very sad yet the music makes the whole story uplifting in a curious sense. Marling's music epitomizes the feelings of someone struggling to realize the world they are in, especially in Failure, where despite the title it is a very reassuring piece, with swirling violins and Marling's words quite soothing to hear: “Don't cry child; you got so much more to live for; don't cry child; you've got something I would die for; and if it comes to the rain; just be glad you'll smile again; because so many don't...” You're No God and Cross Your Fingers, certainly lift the album somewhat, the latter more so for certain. It is a quirky, melodic piece with Marling dreaming up ways to bring her lover back to life (in a manner of speaking- that is to fill him with hope again), crossing fingers and holding toes in an attempt to instill some life back into the things which seem to be buckling under pressure. The interlude that follows has some refreshi! ng brass and is quite appropriate for what follows. I! mention ed the My Manic and I E.P. earlier and following the interlude two songs from the said release appear. They are my least likely choices, though My Manic and I is very much the song that brought her to the surface of the music consciousness so I may be wrong. New Romantic is missing here and I find that very much a pity and a loss for this album, as it would have been fitting after the interlude. However, the two selections will suffice and they carry on to the end quite cohesively. Although there are some more highlights I will leave that for the reader to discover for themselves. Your Only Doll (Dora) closes the album just as effectively as Ghosts welcomed us into this impressive debut. Birds twitter in the background as Marling asks what she can do with a ghost who refuses to be hers, linking back to the first piece. Her honest voice resounds, yet it seems she us leaving us in a wilderness by ourselves; there are no answers for her to give and what more is there t! o expect. An honest musician who I imagine will become a much larger presence as she grows older. She is very much welcome in a society which wholly subscribes to flimsy pop music with little reference to inner emotions.

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    I Speak Because I Can 8 ( 2010 )
    Devil's Spoke / Made By Maid / Rambling Man / Blackberry Stone / Alpha Shallows / Goodbye England (Covered In Snow) / Hope In The Air / What He Wrote / Darkness Descends / I Speak Because I Can

    We have a touch of Joni Mitchell, a touch of Americana, much Dylan, a bit of Leonard Cohen. A Nick Drake foam round the edge of the plate yet a big juicy slice of medium-rare Laura Marling slap bang in the middle of the plate. That's what's important, isn't it? For a second album, Marling has been clever though. She's re-worked a couple of early b-sides, recorded a couple of newer tunes and thrown in the highlights of the bits in-between. Thus, many of the songs here will already be familiar to those watching Laura playing live around the UK. Some have criticized Marling for this approach, others have realised this is exactly the sort of thing the likes of Dylan and Mitchell had to do back in the day to keep releasing a new album every year, or so.

    We open then with 'Devil's Spoke', Marling backed ably by various musicians, including fellow top ten album charters, Mumford & Sons. It's spirals across a desert, strident guitars and powerful vocals full of a confidence that was rarely there for her début LP. Has she grown then? Well, of course she has, she's twenty now and she was seventeen then. I do apologise for bringing her age into this review, yet it is relevant. She hasn't just progressed due to playing/touring and dreaming. She's still learning anyway, life intruding into her art. Well, 'Devil's Spoke' twanging furiously across America doesn't particular prove this, although it is certainly a great sound. 'Made by Maid' and 'Rambling Man' demonstrate more the way she weaves ordinary events and poetry into her work. Both tunes are very Dylan, although 'Made By Maid' can reasonably also attract comparison to both Leonard Cohen and Nick Drake. Ah yes, that old Nick Drake foam upon which you place yourself. That old melancholy dreaming and wistful romance. We progress through similar such simple and evening patterns until the lovely 'Goodbye England' sends shivers throughout any reasonably emotional and romantic mind. Her voice here, as with 'Devils Spoke' is less reminiscent of her Fathers collection of LPs than it is pure, lovely English Rose. The strings mix with her acoustic guitar, she plays some decent lines and you know all the comparisons to Joni/Bob etc everyone is making? Well, songs like this are why. This isn't just pastiche, this is, astonishing as it may sound, just as good.

    The last four tracks seem like a separate release, an EP tacked on the end of a mini-album. The Quality just isn't the same as before even though the approach is the same, eg, Laura plus acoustic plus occasional friends and musical guests. Only really 'Darkness Descends' shines during this ending four song sequence. Why should that be? Maybe she ran out of songs. Maybe, more realistically with the knowledge her next album is already complete, that's she's cleverly setting herself up as a genuine album artist of a kind England hasn't produced for many a year. Well, it's worth a thought, isn't it?

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    Readers Comments

    hamish40p England
    Does anyone else think that this album is incredibly, incredibly dull. I‘ve listened to it a few times hoping that the light would shine, but it hasn't. Shame as i loved the first one. Maybe i need to listen more, but the albums beginning to bother me..... a lot

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    A Creature I Don't Know( 2011 )
    The Muse / I Was Just A Card / Don’t Ask Me Why / Salinas / The Beast / Night After Night / My Friends / Rest In the Bed / Sophia / All My Rage

    At just twenty-one Laura Marling is already three albums into an album-based songwriting career. 'A Creature I Don't Know' is something of a departure from the sound of its predecessors, rarely employing a full-band sound and never quite approaching a radio-friendly sound. Half of this record sounds like demos painted over, the other half references familiar Marling influences and one song, 'Sophie', unexpectedly shines because it features bass, guitar, drums - an entertaining pop/rock sensibility. 'Sophie' contrasts with 'The Muse' or 'I Was Just A Card' - album opener 'The Muse' and album closer 'All My Rage' sound like follow-ups to 'Devil's Spoke', yet come across as more natural sounding equivalents. She's working with a few different musicians for 'A Creature I Don't Know', lending the album a different personality to its predecessors. If you adored the first two Laura Marling records, you may find 'A Creature I Don't Know' initially underwhelming, it almost comes across as half-hearted compared to those earlier efforts. It's a cliché, but repeated listens reap their own rewards, revealing 'A Creature I Don't Know' to be a fully rounded work, a cohesive listening experience without getting bogged down with songs sounding too much like each other.

    Make no mistake, 'The Beast' is a full-out Rock song after it starts quietly, it then errupts with genuine electric fuzzy guitar, a most welcome addition to the Laura Marling catalogue. 'Rest In My Bed' proves Laura is still listening to plenty of Joni Mitchell, it's all there in the vocal inflections. Joni fans no doubt will either take such tributes as just that, or complain that Marling isn't deserving of the comparison, crying 'where is Laura Marling's jazz-fusion album?' Three albums in, give the girl a chance, and yes, 'A Creature I Don't Know' does show signs of progression anyway, even if it doesn't reinvent the Laura Marling wheel. She's not just been listening to Joni Mitchell you see, as 'The Beast' demonstrates. 'Night After Night' demonstrates she's also been listening to Leonard Cohen, 'Chelsea Hotel' in particular perhaps? The guitar style employed, which echoes Cohen's early styles, suits Marling actually. A last word for 'Sophie', a song never likely to instantly light up the singles charts, as I earlier mentioned, despite it approaching a radio-friendly sound in place. Well, it starts quietly, the guitars a little Simon And Garfunkel. The song once is properly gets going some three minutes in is a Joni Mitchell song exploration, but none the worse for that - excellent track, with bass, drums (but not drum'n' bass) and we all live happily after all.

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    Once I Was An Eagle 9 ( 2013 )
    Take the Night Off / I Was an Eagle / You Know / Breathe / Master Hunter / Little Love Caster / Devil's Resting Place / Interlude / Undine / Where Can I Go? / Once / Pray for Me / When Were You Happy? (And How Long Has That Been) / Love Be Brave / Little Bird / Saved These Words"

    Straight in, debuting at number three on the UK album charts is (never had anything close to a hit single in her entire life) Laura Marling. She's also never been played during the hours of 6am to 6pm, on 95% of UK radio stations. So, you might well ask who the hell is buying her records? Well, she more than likely attracts people sick and tired of chart music - urban hell. Tulisa from the UK TV Show X-Factor, recently sacked and recently caught up in a drugs bust, and knows about as much from the A to Z of musical history as a dustbin bag.... would repeatedly comment about music being 'urban' or 'not urban' - as if the progressive and evolving story of popular music that started in about 1908 and is still trying to continue - didn't matter. People do still write real songs, contributing to that yes, annoying phrase, the 'rock canon'. A 'canon' that encompasses everything from blues, to jazz, to techno. Yet, 'urban' or modern dance music simply isn't part of that canon. It doesn't connect to it, and doesn't point the way to the future. Its simply arrived in the past five years, evolving out of other scenes to come to a point where you either sound like Will.I.Am or you don't. That's about the limit of today's pop music scene. Talent show audiences scream in delight when singers hit the high notes, as if being able to hit a high note is a sign of artistry and creativity. I say, inflict Motorhead's Lemmy on them. He can go round to all of their houses personally and get drunk and generally cause havoc and mayhem.

    This album, quite frankly, is too long. Sixteen songs and 63 minutes is too long. What happened to albums that could be listened to in a single sitting, and by gods, life is even busier these days than when 60s acts released albums barely longer than thirty minutes. Naturally, The Beatles released albums that were 39 minutes long - those extra 9 minutes naturally and entirely down to their immense creativity, and not the glaring and obvious gap between US and UK record labels. US record labels would release albums by UK acts about seven times a year, rounding up every last fart the UK record label had or hadn't put out on an album proper. They even did it with their own US born acts, like The Beach Boys. Laura Marling has released four albums in five years, or something like that. It's building her popularity no end - just singing songs. I doubt she's even especially winning a large audience from touring - no, it's the songs and records that count, very reassuring in an old-fashioned kind of way. Oh, for all the Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell stuff, she sounds like Nick Drake now on a couple of tracks and it's very nice. All these songs by the way on the album are presented in the chronological order they were actually written, an interesting idea and it does manage to develop the album. The first songs, the first four, are very much of a piece but also the least interesting songs on the entire album. It really gets going about half-way through, seemingly becoming better and better. It's a take on sequencing an album others could well take lessons from, don't front load your albums with the best songs, kids! Having said that, 'Take The Night Off' is good enough to put many pretenders off without even trying, and this is apparently the first track of a weak four opening sequence, in my opinion.

    Well, the four songs last some fifteen minutes and would have made a cracking EP - a separate EP, to promote the album as a whole, this would have really got Laura attention. I do still wonder about her prowess, or lack of it, as a guitar player. This album is nearly all Laura on vocals and guitar, producer Ethan Johns is responsible for most of the extra sounds. I like Ani Difranco, and you can instantly recognise her guitar playing. Still, as per Laura Marling, Dylan was no great shakes as a guitar player either, and it never seemed to do him any harm. To be fair, she is getting better at playing, album to album, and she is still very young - so we shall see where it goes, I suppose. Anyway, the first four songs really are just one epic, eleven minute single song, as such - an audacious way to open any album. Well, the days of progressive rock are gone, and I don't think anybody ever did a folk/progressive hybrid, unless they were particularly high on drugs, of course. 'Master Hunter' has Ethan Johns on drums, and he really wacks them. After the quiet, reflective first four songs - this comes across as a pretty stunning track. After all this master hunter, she goes all love caster and repeats the words master hunter, and goes a little spanish with the guitars, and then slightly classical during the wonderful 'Little Love Caster'. There is hope for this girl yet!

    'Umdine' makes me scream, 'Laura, stop singing in an American accent!' - yet the guitar patterns are cool. 'Where Can I Go?' is the best track on the album, softly strummed guitar - her voice sounds like Joni a little, yet also a little like her. The lyrics are lovely and the song is soft and wonderful, enhanced greatly by the quiet 'Blonde On Blonde' keyboard interludes. Well, back to her first album - it was already obvious she was listening to what will become to be known as the American classics. Anyway, just imagine for a moment the Bob Dylan 'Blonde On Blonde' band, but with Joni Mitchell singing lead vocals - wouldn't that be the coolest thing on earth?

    You would think that there are only so many songs you can start with seemingly exactly the same acoustic guitar pattern, yet listen to this album more than four times, and you start to notice it makes sense. The lyrics are key - the music here, without earlier albums involvement by Mumford And Sons, is more Laura and less record company pleasing zeitgeist kind of stuff. You know, I'm a bit anal with all of this stuff - but I have no idea, I've just realised, what label Laura Marling is even signed to, or why she isn't in the process of becoming huge in the USA? 'When Were You Happy?' deserves a Joe Boyd production, such is the 'Pink Moon' Nick Drake kind of atmosphere. This is thirteen songs in, we've already been on a journey, and no, i've not been smoking, well, nothing other than a hamlet cigar. Nick Drake? She stretches her words her, 'How loooong, can it be?' - pure Nick Drake, but she does it so very well. 'Little Bird', well, if you were being vicious, you could tell her words about relationships were a bit annoying, yet 'Little Bird' is gorgeous, the acoustic guitar unassuming, yet playing pretty melodies. Her voice is soft and yearning, singing about 'little rosie'. Nice, really good, acoustic guitar playing here, Ethan Johns nowhere in sight, bar percussion, his production throughout the album is spot on, he lets Laura Marling be Laura Marling. In the early nineties, I got annoyed that say, an album by The Auteurs wasn't seen as important or as good as acts from the 60s or 70s. Make no mistake, this album right here by Laura Marling is fully deserving of its rating as a classic. She's come of age, and she's still young enough to offer us lots and lots more in the future. I also like the fact, by chance or co-incidence, that the last song is 'Saved These Words'. She sounds like Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen - all at the same time. It's a quiet song, contemplative. I'm applauding this album, she's deserves the press, no mention of hype on this site, she really is as good as they say she is.

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    this page last updated 04/06/13

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