Laura Marling: Once I was an Eagle

20 Dec

| another review of music I hadn’t heard until now |

Laura Marling is by turns brilliant and banal. To elaborate, her special talent – because it really is that: special – feels watered down by the sheer length of the 16-track epic that is Once I was an Eagle

Marling has a remarkable voice: comparable to that of Regina Spektor‘s in its dexterity, yet with a slightly huskier timbre. What I find interesting about Marling’s voice is her tendency to lapse from singing to muttering, yet maintaining an astute tunefulness. What also really impressed me with this album was the way in which the songs did not end but flowed seamlessly into one another, with the result of presenting as one long, varied, yet contingent train of thought.

Unfortunately, although Marling has incorporated a broad variation of influences in this album – “Little Love Caster” reflecting traditional Spanish guitar; “Devil’s Resting Place” a combination of Bollywood music and British sea chanteys; her “Interlude” a North-America-in-the-1920s strings composition – her adoption of this range of different styles comes across as pastiche rather than authentic; as though she were trying to be eclectic.

I also found myself repeatedly disappointed with Marling’s lyrics. Interesting statements were frequent, but not carried through: followed, instead, with generic lyrics about the music industry’s most innovative and controversial topic: romantic relationships. A classic examples of this can be found in “You Know”, which begins with these two verses:

Damn all those people
Who don’t lose control
Who will never take a foot out of life
You might not think that I care
But you don’t know what I know

 And damn all those hippies
Who stomp empty footed
Upon all what’s good
All what’s pure of the world
You might not think that I care
But you don’t know what I know

and ends with this one:

And I was so sure
But you, free-wheelin’ troubadour
You took my mind off the scene
And you know, and I know, and I know
I know, that you know
You know, you know, you know
and I know that you know

 In short, I felt she tantalized me with interesting ideas, but refused to explore them, instead spouting trivial, repetitive refrains like the one above.

In Once I was an Eagle, Laura Marling’s moments of musical brilliance are tragically distilled by her much longer minutes of blandness. Perhaps she is one of those artists I can appreciate, but one song at a time.

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