Album Review: Laura Marling

on Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Words: Kieran Toms

Laura Marling - 'I Speak Because I Can'

Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can (album artwork)
I made the mistake of reading lots of reviews of Laura Marling's new album before I listened to it or wrote my own review. This meant that I was aware that it was a “grower”. Armed with such knowledge, I perhaps naively thought that I could knowingly pass straight into appreciating it. I was wrong.

With my hopes built up by my love of the debut album, and by the praise lavished upon this one, my initial impression of this record was to be underwhelmed. It’s not an easy album to get to know. It’s so fragile and understated that you really need time and concentration to appreciate its subtleties. Perhaps not an easy thing to do, when there are tweets to tweet and emails to reply to. But it is clear a great deal of quiet contemplation has gone into this album – both lyrically and musically - and to fully appreciate it, you too need to sit down, and let surround you all the sadness and emotion contained within.

On this record, Marling is in a sort of state of fragile defiance, seemingly dwarfed by the overwhelming melancholy of life and love and everything, but able to rouse herself to fight back. As her first album proved, when armed with just her voice and a guitar, she can deliver beautifully restrained ripostes to life’s misfortunes.

But of course it would be wrong wish for or expect a repeat of her first album, and this isn’t one. It is bolder and more ambitious. Extra instrumentation and occasional backing vocals add new depths without losing her signature intimacy - the glimpses of piano on 'Hope In The Air' and the harmonious humming 'What He Wrote', being prime examples.

Marling’s voice has matured and developed too. It is breathtaking at times here. It tiptoes along quietly, reservedly, before darting out with startling daggers of emotion, hitting you right in the heart. She manages to sound wise and world-weary, yet still retain her youthful emotion.

So yes, it is definitely “a grower”. But whatever you think at first, stick with it, for it grows into something very special indeed.

'I Speak Because I Can' came out on Monday. Stream for free/buy at we7.

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