Release Date: Sep 13, 2011
Record label: Ribbon Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
A Creature I Don’t Know will prove a remarkable moment in the career of Laura Marling. And I say that with very serious conviction. The lusciously wisdom-beyond-years lustre of Alas I Cannot Swim was a wide net with which to create a fan base; and the distinctly more measured, assured and mature I Speak Because I Can in turn made that the first record seem positively infantile with its deep running themes of responsibility and adulthood.
Laura Marling sings in a clear, expressive voice that swoops birdlike from a dusky croon to a wry sing-speak. “The Muse,” which opens her third album, the adventurous A Creature I Don’t Know, may be the best showcase yet for that impressive vocal range: She sings most lines forcefully, exerting herself over the full folk accompaniment, then sings-speaks the last line of each stanza—more like an actor than a musician. It’s a simple, yet powerful technique, one that adds drama to the song and gives this 21-year-old artist a presence and authority that may belie her age.
It’s no wonder British songstress Laura Marling cites Joni Mitchell as one of her influences for making music. Marling’s beautiful, haunting vocals recall an era of ’60s folk rock that coaxes listeners along to a simpler time. A Creature I Don’t Know is Marling’s third studio album and continues in the fashion of her two previous releases.
The first time you hear Laura Marling, it’s hard to believe how young she is. A folksinger/songwriter in the tradition of Joni Mitchell and Fairport Convention’s Sandy Denny, she has, at the age of 21, released three albums, each marked by a maturity, intelligence and careful craftsmanship that belie not just her youth, but also her generation. Listening to her songs, you’d be hard-pressed to prove they were written in the 21st century: none of the technological or pop culture signposts we take for granted put in appearances, and the work itself demands the kind of careful attention that our fractured, channel-surfing world has made almost obsolete.
LAURA MARLING plays the Great Hall Friday (September 23). See listing. Rating: NNNN On her third album, Brit Award-winning UK singer/songwriter Laura Marling sings with enough confidence and force to belie her 21 years and bring to mind North American greats like Joni Mitchell and Michelle Shocked. A Creature I Don't Know, produced by Ethan Johns, who also worked on 2010's I Speak Because I Can, is a well-orchestrated pop album made with acoustic instruments (guitars, strings, pianos).
In fairytales there are demons whose innate darkness contrasts with the hero’s innocent, wide-eyed exterior. In real life, though, these dualities exist in the same being: the hero finds bits of the demon in himself. Happy endings are obligatory in the storybooks; you’re lucky if you get redemption in the mundane world.[a]Laura Marling[/a]’s third album sees her tackling the good and bad within her own wild heart.
An air of inquiry suffuses Laura Marling's third album, a mood of experimentation as cerebral as it is playful. Opening song The Muse is like nothing she has released before: swaggering and brassy, with her voice pulling angular shapes across saloon-jazz piano and tight brush drums. Salinas and Rest in the Bed are like miniature western movies, with spit and sawdust in the guitar and banjo lines, melodrama in the backing vocals and Marling squinting at a relentless sun as her characters glare fate in the face.
Laura Marling's music feels timeless. I don't mean "timeless" in the sense that people refer to, say, Adele or Duffy as timeless, when really they're really just evoking a very specific time that happens to be distant. Marling evokes other artists, too, but they're spread out over the past five decades of pop and rock, from Joni Mitchell, Fairport Convention, and Leonard Cohen to Fiona Apple, Tori Amos, and PJ Harvey.
Laura Marling, fresh off of a Mercury Prize nomination at the age of 20 for 2010’s I Speak Because I Can, knows that with critical acclaim comes great expectation. Her third studio album, the loose and languid A Creature I Don’t Know, both edifies her old-soul persona and diffuses it, offering up 11 slabs of retro Anglophile folk that manages to both push the envelope and seal it shut. Marling's vocal affectations, which are ultimately charming despite their frequent Joni Mitchell-isms, are far more apparent this time around, especially on the album’s first three tracks, all of which showcase a fervent singer/songwriter with a fiercely independent spirit who’s tempered by a strong familiarity with her parents’ record collection.
It’s hard to fathom that it’s been only four years since English folk musician Laura Marling appeared on the music scene. At the age of 18, Marling released her first album, Alas, I Cannot Swim, which was met with both overwhelming critical praise and an inability to talk about her music without taking into account just how young she was. Only two years later, Marling’s second album, I Speak Because I Can, elicited an amazingly stronger, near-universal reaction, even earning her comparisons to the likes of Joni Mitchell.
Laura Marling grows up fast. Only 17 years old during the recording of Alas, I Cannot Swim – an early benchmark in the British folk revival that now dominates the U.K. mainstream – she’s since matured into a classic songwriter, boasting a voice that recalls the folksingers of her parents’ generation. On her third album, Marling continues building her way toward a fuller, broader sound, adding touches of chamber pop and amplified guitar noise to an otherwise acoustic base.
It’s hard not to feel both twinges of cynical suspicion and mild concern when it comes to Laura Marling’s rapidly rising starlet status. Already shortlisted for the Mercury Music Prize twice, signed to a major label with plenty of marketing muscle power and encumbered by gossip-friendly side-stories of past relationships with members of Noah & The Whale and Mumford & Sons, the intense focus on someone so young could potentially be Marling’s premature personal and artistic undoing. Certainly to her credit though, Marling seems to be striving to dodge such distractions, to sharpen the focus on making music on her own still-to-be fully defined terms.
Another fine release from Marling, lyrically dark and sophisticated of sound. Alex Denney 2011 Bob Dylan had barely put miles on his 23rd year when he wrote My Back Pages, his gleeful kiss-off to finger-wagging folk turning on his political idealism, its key lines: "But I was so much older then / I'm younger than that now". Laura Marling is only 21, but the Hampshire-born starlet shows no sign of reversing the ageing process with A Creature I Don’t Know, her third album which picks up where the meandering, lips-pursed folk of 2010’s I Speak Because I Can left off.