By Nick Manteris · 0 Comments · Leave a Comment
Laura Marling was discovered on MySpace at a very young age and her first album, Alas, I Cannot Swim, came out when she was only eighteen. The album – despite being shortlisted for the Mercury Prize (losing to The Seldom Seen Kid by Elbow) – only made it to 45 on the UK Album Chart and failed to chart in the US. It was one of my favorite albums from 2008, topping my Best Singer-Songwriter Albums list, but Laura Marling just couldn’t generate the same amount of buzz as some of her high-profile contemporaries like Amy Winehouse or Lily Allen, just to name a couple.
Laura Marling is more self-assured on I Speak Because I Can and the songs here sound more full than anything found on her mostly-austere debut. Laura has matured and so has her music, though she hasn’t strayed too far from where she started. The opening song, “Devil's Spoke,” powerfully assaults you with a frenzy of banjos – because she can, I imagine – but the next two tracks revert back to pure folk. “Rambling Man” reminds me of something (a cross between The Swell Season and Emmylou Harris maybe?), but the record store inside my head now has such a diverse inventory that I may never find the exact reference. The highlight of the album is “Blackberry Stone” and that track has evolved since its inclusion on the Cross Your Fingers EP – the clunky guitar strumming has been replaced with several layers of melody. Almost as good is “Alpha Shallows,” a simply beautiful song…my initial listen even placed it first. “Goodbye England” and “What He Wrote” are also noteworthy as well as “Hope in the Air,” which seems like a message from Morrissey with the inflection of Sinéad O'Connor: “Why fear death? / be scared of living / our hearts are small and ever-thinning / there is no hope, ever of winning / oh, why fear death? / be scared of living.”
Laura Marling avoids the dreaded sophomore slump with I Speak Because I Can and goes one step further, creating an album that beats her first effort…though I feel I would be remiss in failing to mention that “Old Stone” is still my favorite song from her. There are rumors that Laura Marling plans to release another album this year, but I could not find any official indications that this might happen. That would be something though, wouldn’t it?