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One of my favourite British performers of recent years has been young singer-songwriter Laura Marling. Marling popped on to the British music scene just a few short years ago as a teenager with a mature sounding folk-pop sound that belied her age and a worldly lyrical that again made her sound older than she was. Surprisingly her debut album "Alas, I cannot Swim" (2008), didn't sound anything like what one would expect from a completely unestablished 16 year old and instead sounded like the work of an experienced artist who had been there and seen it.
Following the success of her debut album Laura released the highly acclaimed "I Speak Because I Can" (2010). Like her debut the album sounded much more like that of an older-singer songwriter than a youngster who was still perfecting her craft. This was shown in much of the praise she had got that had compared her to the likes of Amy Winehouse and just a year later (2011) Marling released he third album, "A Creature I Don't Know".
The album opens with the folksy sounding "The Muse" the track that really sees Marling continuing the powerful-female folk vocal sound of her previous albums. Accompanied by little more than a guitar and a piano Marling's vocals and lyrics really shine here as she performs with a slightly more produced sound than some of her earlier work. Although she always sounded older than she was, this track almost introduces you to "grown up" Laura, with not only her mature sound but also a more honed overall feel.
After the solid opener, it's little surprise that Marling's vocals continue to shine and the album's second track "I Was Just a Card" continues to blow you away as Marling's vocals again impress. Alongside the vocals, which are really set to impress, the track really has a simple feel with only the most stripped down of backing music. This is where Marling really impresses as she doesn't feel the need to hide her voice, instead forcing the listener to listen to her. This stripped down sound appears in it's most blatant form in the albums third track "Don't Ask Me", a song that really is little more than just Marling and her guitar in a deep and wonderfully crafted tale.
The album's fourth track "Salinas" is another example of Marling and her guitar doing almost all the talking. There is nothing smart or complicated about the music (despite it getting a bit busier sounding in places), though the lyrics really start to show their class here as Marling starts to show herself us as the next "Dylan" with a wonderful ability to tell a story. This ability to tell a story is evident again in the album's fifth track "The Beast". Although it's the longest track on the album at just short of 6 minutes it's a track that really shows Marling's excellent ability to pace things. It'd have been easily for the track to go on too long but Marling keep you grabbed throughout with her vocals, her story and the seriousness of the track.
After two wonderfully brilliant songs in regards to lyrics, Marling goes back to the simplistic for the lyrically straightforward "Night After Night". Despite being lyrically simple, it's another track that is perfectly paced (good thing as it's a touch over 5 minutes) and once again shows off the young lady's talent to keep you hooked with her voice and her simple music.
The album continues to show off Marling's vocal ability with "My Friends" a track that appears to want to show a different side to the songstress with out going too far from her comfort zone. The song does throw a few new things your way as a listener but at it's heart it's still Marling, a guitar and the word mastery of a young woman who is growing up. There is perhaps a bit more bite here than there has been in some of the earlier tracks though overall it's Laura doing what Laura does so well.
Although "Rest in the Bed" sounds like much of the album, dependent on Marling's excellent vocals, clever lyrics and simplistic music, the album really has a kick with penultimate track "Sophia", a clever track that slows down the pace into almost an orthodox folk song. This is, for me, the stand out track on the album and the richest overall song which seems to really step out of the shadows of many of the other tracks. The track has been compared to having a sound similar to Joni Mitchell, high praise indeed for not only the track but the artist at the middle of it.
The album closes with it's shortest track, "All My Rage" (a shy under 3 minutes) a fast, up tempo folk track that sounds like Marling just having fun with her music rather than doing anything too serious. This sounds like a light hearted and fun folk track, though the lyrics themselves certainly aren't too fun. This is a really fitting way to end the album on a high.
Although much of the album is quite samey with just Marling and her guitar it's hard not to be impressed throughout with the talented performer who really turns the screw in the final couple of tracks to complete and album that's worth listening to from start to end. It's not on par with her debut by any means but it's a solid album and is worth a listen to especially if you liked her earlier work or you like folk.
If you can see this available for £5 I'd advise snapping it up, though with just 10 tracks (or 11 if you by the album featuring the itunes bonus track "Flicker and Fail") I wouldn't spend much more on it.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 The Muse
2 I Was Just a Card
3 Don't Ask Me Why
5 The Beast
6 Night After Night
7 My Friends
8 Rest in the Bed
10 All My Rage