It was over 5 years ago that an 18 year old Laura Marling released her debut album, Alas I Cannot Swim. At the time of it’s release the phrase ‘wise beyond her years’ was thrown around quite a lot, a little too much. Produced by Noah and the Whale’s Charlie Fink, the record made Marling one of the youngest people to ever be nominated for the Mercury Prize. Since then we’ve had two more records, 2009’s I Speak Because I Can and 2011’s A Creature I Don’t Know. Each record sees an obvious growth in Marling, lyrically but particularly melodically. After the introduction of some jazz themes on her last record, which sounded like a nod to Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark, I wondered if she would continue this theme on further records. However, instead what we have got is a quietly beautiful, introspective and honest attempt.
Yesterday, a 23 year old Marling saw the release of her forth record, Once I Was An Eagle. It’s instrumentally her simplest record, yet the themes which stretch through the 16-tracks make for a deep and often intense listen. There is a sense running through this record that she has gone back to basics. Or maybe she’s grown more and more into herself. Creature was a very assured record, maybe too much so. Once I Was An Eagle feels fragile and timid, yet it also sounds like she’s aware of that. The Americana influences come through, yet unlike Creature, this doesn’t sound like a Joni record, this sounds like her own. It feels almost like she has found her home, her resting place.
A couple of places on the record sound likes she’s trying the please the label, the only ‘single’ of the record is the rousing ‘Master Hunter’, which grows in sound rather like pretty much any Mumford song ever. However, it’s the places where she limits herself and where the instrumentation is minimal that the true beauty of this record truly shines through. Places like the 6 minute long ‘Little Love Caster’, the lazy Americana sounds of ‘Once’ and the 4 track melody which opens the record.
It’s fair to say that this is my favorite Marling record yet (but didn’t I say this about all of them?). I would think it would also result in her third Mercury nomination. You can buy Once I Was An Eagle through her online store in various formats.