Laura Marling new album takes folk to a rawer place: album review

Laura Marling
‘A Creature I Don’t Know’ (Virgin)
Available now

Laura Marling has come a long way since her debut album ‘Alas I Cannot Swim’
She emerged straight from the London folk scene, having performed with indie-folk hybrids Noah and the Whale and then broke free almost instantly into mainstream success with her solo material.

Folk music is currently seen as a popular option for new musicians, seen by artists such as Mumford and Sons playing their faux-folk pop and seeming to get some hits out of it. It is no longer a genre that is ignored or looked down upon by the charts or the media. However, there’s always something quite striking and genuine about Laura Marling. She applies herself to writing and recording as much as she can, hence the reason she’s already on her third album at the tender age of 21. Last year she was even picked up by rock music’s own overwhelmingly dedicated pioneer, Jack White, to record in his studio whilst on tour in Nashville, Tennessee. She’s really not a half-hearted, one hit wonder that will be disappearing any time soon.

Her third and latest album, A Creature I Don’t Know is an album that highlights her maturity and how she’s growing as a person and as a musician. Her voice is much lower than in 2008 and adds emotional depth to her music that she quite simply could not apply when she first started recording. Whether this is caused by her growing, or the effect of her excessive smoking is something we shall never know, but it works, just like it did with Tom Waits. It added something extra to her work and will perhaps similarly become her signature as years go by. One thing that is for sure is that the Suzanne Vega comparisons may no longer be used in relation to Marling.

In fact, she’s sounding more like Joni Mitchell than ever before. Opener, The Muse, is a true story in every sense. Writing tales of love and expressing stories of her own feelings, she’s keeping her writing style similar to how it’s always been. Lyrically she complains and sings of darkness and pessimism. “You know what I need/ Why won’t you give it me?/ Must I fall down at your feet and plead?” she sings, in the highest tone her voice will let her. Laura Marling sings of desperation related to love but she’s a lot deeper and darker than she used to be. Using the three albums consecutively you can visibly see how she has matured and uses her ever developing writing quality to sing about what she finds important to express.

Marling’s melody structures have clearly improved and are evident throughout the album, backed up by wonderful, yet simplistic string sections. It must be a wonderful feeling as an artist to have the freedom and the backing to have the songs exactly as she wishes. No longer does she have a limit, she’s a successful artist with a production team ready to make the album of her dreams. Yet, she doesn’t over-do it. She balances the instrumentals with her very small sound of her voice and guitar arpeggios. The balancing works well as the album varies between loud and quiet and huge and small sounds.

I believe that Laura Marling is portraying her feelings throughout the album and I hear her laying down a lot of sadness and a lot of loneliness. The lyrics come from a very deep place, and I think it’s a credit to the artist if they can translate that into music or an art form of any kind. On the track, Don’t Ask Me Why she sings, “Those of us who are lost and low/ I know how you feel/ I know it’s not right but it’s real”. Marling is directly appealing to her listener. She sings with a tone that yearns for love and unites the listener with the artist and incorporates a relation or a bond. To be able to make a listener feel emotion for the artist is a truly admirable talent indeed.

With this album she’s been able to use the freedom she has worked for to produce the album as she wishes. She’s gone beyond the folk artist persona that she’s been given. She’s now an outstanding singer-songwriter with a credibility that I hope will last over her career. She’s on the way to becoming an artist with an extensive discography as she has started so young. What I am looking forward to most with Laura Marling is when she naturally experiences more of life’s troubles and can continue to present that through the medium of song writing. A Creature I Don’t Know is another stage of Laura Marling’s beginning. She’s only just begun, but she’s a genuine talent at the start of her growth into womanhood.

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Manchester-based writer and promoter. Currently putting on gigs for Glass Onion. Contact me at Follow me at @JDNicol.


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