Album Review: I Speak Because I Can by Laura Marling
Exceptionally Good, Based on 10 Critics
The Guardian - 100 Based on rating 5/5
You can read Laura Marling's progress through her album titles, from 2008's Mercury-nominated but youthful Alas I Cannot Swim to the confident, fully-formed I Speak Because I Can. Still only 20, she has delivered songs worthy of an English folk lineage stretching from Beth Orton to Nick Drake and even the folkier moments of Led Zeppelin and Tyrannosaurus Rex. The "poor naive little me" depicted in Rambling Man is now writing way beyond her years.
Whatever your opinion of Laura Marling, she is an artist that attracts attention. The main talking point of Alas I Cannot Swim was the age of the artist, juxtaposed with the mature poise of the lyrics and music. Recorded whilst she was but 17, its ponderings on love and all that eventually garnered a Mercury nomination and high positions in those end of year lists.
So often for young musicians the songwriting process is more interesting than the final product. They face a steep learning curve that forces them to forge their talent in inventive ways. While their experimentation and instincts can be inventive, their results are often not-quite-ready-for-primetime. Rare are the cases when an artist's style coherently forms so early on.
Twenty is the new 347 Laura Marling had just turned 18 when she released her 2008 debut, Alas, I Cannot Swim, but it seemed like she’d already lived four or five lifetimes. By then, she had somehow digested the entire canon of British folk music along with her guitar lessons, in the process becoming world-weary enough to write lines like “The gods that he believes never fail to disappoint me” and “Don’t cry child, you’ve got so much more to live for / Don’t cry child, you’ve got something I would die for. ” And in between touring the globe and being touted as the young queen of a new-folk revival (and shattering the heart of her then-boyfriend/producer, Noah and the Whale’s Charlie Fink, indirectly giving us one of 2009’s best symphonic breakup albums, First Days of Spring), she found it in herself to make yet another gorgeous, melancholy, old-souled record.
Reviewing 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.
New Musical Express (NME) - 80 Based on rating 4/5
What’s in a haircut? Plenty, if we’re to believe the hype surrounding the release of new-folk starlet [a]Laura Marling[/a]’s second album. In the promo clip for single [b]‘Devil’s Spoke’[/b], the one-time possessor of a pixie-blonde crop beyond compare appears glum-faced, hair scraped back into a mousy bun. Scrubbed and sullen-looking, she has the seen-it-all air of an institutionalised heroine in a horror sequel.Whether it’s [b]Britney[/b]’s buzzcut or [b]Alex Kapranos[/b]’ trial separation from his fringe circa-2005, we’re all experts in the psychology of haircuts now.
British folksinger Laura Marling’s 2008 debut, Alas I Cannot Swim, showed more depth and maturity than one would expect from a (then) 18-year-old. Marling’s expressive, smoky voice and penchant for lyrical matter that didn’t reference clubbing landed her a well-earned Mercury Prize nomination, as well as a considerable amount of hype concerning her follow-up. Released in 2010, I Speak Because I Can delivers on nearly every level, upping both the production value (thanks to Ryan Adams and Kings of Leon producer Ethan Johns and fellow indie folk darlings Mumford & Sons) and the songwriting.
Laura Marling is probably a lovely young lady, but fizzing with resentment over the sight of her name is a justifiable action. When Marling was all of 17, she released Alas, I Cannot Swim, an excellent album that became extraordinary when her age was taken into account. Lucky listeners of the album were gifted with a strong singing and writing voice, one that came to us with understated stories of unstable love and religious renouncement.
A darker tone permeates the young folk singer’s second album. Luke Slater 2010 When 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.
On Laura Marling’s second album, I Speak Because I Can, the 20-year-old British songstress continues to deal with many of the issues she did on her first album–God, grace and the ghosts of lovers past–but with two added years of invaluable teenage experience under her belt. Since she released the Mercury Prize-nominated Alas, I Cannot Swim in 2008, Marling’s ideas have had a little time to ferment, and that has made them all the sweeter. With the aid of producer Ethan Johns (Ryan Adams, Ray LaMontagne), she continues down the road she began on, layering heartfelt, mature lyrics over seemingly effortless guitar.