Review : Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can
PitchforkReviewing Laura Marling's Mercury Prize-nominated debut album, Alas, I Cannot Swim, in 2008, I worried that the then-18-year-old might too quickly shed the teenage guilelessness that contributed so greatly to the record's appeal. Marling possessed an undeniable knack for writing about young love with directness and authentic feeling, but at times her pseudo-profound poetics suggested the young folkie was in too much of a hurry to be a serious adult.
Clearly, I significantly underestimated Laura Marling's capabilities. Her sophomore effort, I Speak Because I Can, finds Marling, still only 20, shrugging off virtually all traces of girlishness and wide-eyed charm, instead delving into darkly elemental, frequently morbid folk. And yet, astonishingly, the expected growing pains never come. To say Marling evinces wisdom beyond her years on I Speak would be a criminal understatement, considering she's created a haunting, fully flowered gem of an album despite being younger than two-thirds of the Jonas Brothers.
These are folk-rock songs, but Marling doesn't lazily trade on it like so many other would-be old souls. Instead, like Fairport Convention or Nick Cave or Cat Power, she uses folk as an archetypal form to get at the essential realities of love, sex, heartbreak, and death. Sometimes she does it with heart-stopping quietness, her voice dropping to conversational tones on "Made by Maid" and "What He Wrote". Just as often, Marling sets her allegories to raucous musical accompaniment, an especially impressive feat considering the calm of her debut. The bluesy jig of opener and first single "Devil's Spoke" might elicit a few less-than-ideal comparisons with KT Tunstall, but Marling blows that kind of politely insistent stuff out of the water on the soaring, thunderous "Rambling Man" and the gypsy-ish breakdown of "Alpha Shallows" (which makes up for that song's momentary slip into sub-Dylan poetic doggerel)....full text
BbcWhen Laura Marling appeared on the folk scene in 2008, aged 17, there was almost as much anticipation of her promise as praise for the music she produced. This was no bad thing, allowing development as an artist, and crucially not placing too much pressure or expectation on not-as-yet broad shoulders. Her debut, Alas, I Cannot Swim, was delivered to a generous critical reception, but the question asked this time round was always going to be one of progression, and the fulfilment of that abundant early talent.
Listening to Alas and second full-length, I Speak Because I Can, back-to-back, a change in tone – if not direction – is evident from opener and lead single Devil's Spoke. The production here is more deliberate and pored-over, expanding upon the earlier bare-bones approach. A leaf out of the Mumford & Sons school of orchestration has also been taken, with Rambling Man the greatest representation of this. The development in vocal styling is also stark; gone is the wispy, quick-fire phrasing and in walks deeper, slower, huskier proclamations. In many ways darkness has replaced the brightness.
It would, however, be disingenuous to paint this record as a collection of Marling's miserabilism. Despite the downbeat opening tracts, certain songs – Darkness Descends and I Speak Because I Can – abound with optimism and the ultimate, swelling crescendo of the latter displays an impressive mastery of dynamics. Similarly, at least a touch of variation is a necessity in folk, and this is demonstrated frequently, no more noticeably than when the boisterous acceleration of Alpha Shallows falls under a weight of heavy strums and gives way to the subtle, tender love letter to a country that is Goodbye England (Covered In Snow)....full text
TelegraphPale faced and precociously talented, Laura Marling was just 18 when her 2008 debut album, Alas I Cannot Swim, was nominated for the Mercury Prize. Her assured Hampshire vernacular vocals, “unnervingly grown-up” lyrics and deft’n’definite acoustic guitar picking saw her compared with the young Joni Mitchell. Staring intelligent defiance from behind her blunt-cut, peroxide-blonde fringe, she certainly seemed to be kindling a similar fire of feminine independence within the rather boysy “nu-folk” scene (which includes Devendra Banhart, James Yorkston and Mumford & Sons). The weight of critical expectation hung heavy as old velvet curtains over her second album – but it sounds like she’s just thrown them wide and gone pelting out into the English countryside to create this passionate sequence of songs expressing all the wildness and wisdom of a 20 year-old “feeling the weight of womanhood”.
The new Marling is darker and more sophisticated. She opens proceedings with a drunken, midnight maypole dance of a song. Devil’s Spoke builds from a shadowy portrait of pastoral loneliness into an increasingly frenzied, banjo-spun romance ending with lovers “eye to eye, nose to nose/ripping off each others clothes in a most peculiar way”. Whereas so much music coming from the “nu-folk” scene sounds like nature recollected in safety, by the glowing fire of some Olde Taverne, Marling’s sounds starkly exposed to the English elements. Her songs are simple yet complex, weird but quotidien like hedgerows – twisted, full of thorns, fruit, life and death. You can hear a thrill at the savagery as well as the sweetness of our landscape in the unflinching alto that sings: “I’ll never love England more than when covered in snow.”
Many of the songs struggle with Marling’s conflicted yearning for both traditional monogamy and unfettered independence. “I tried to be a girl who likes to be used,” she sings on Goodbye England, “I’m too good for that/ There’s a mind under this hat.” Elsewhere she gazes back into Greek mythology for female companionship, addressing the marriage goddess Hera and conjuring the spirit of Odysseus’ patient wife Penelope. I Speak Because I Can is my favourite release of the year so far – and certainly an album worth sailing home for....full text
Laura Marling Album Reviews
Sweetslyrics Top 20 Artists
Laura Marling Lyrics
Would you have