Friday, 31 May 2013

Review: Laura Marling - Once I Was An Eagle

Laura Marling’s progression since 2008’s Alas I Cannot Swim has seen her develop into one of the most accomplished songwriters of her time. Where her early friends and bandmates have burst through and conquered the mainstream charts (Mumford and Sons, Noah and the Whale, you may have heard of them), Laura has steadily grown to be one of the most adored yet relatively unknown talents of the folk industry.
In 2011 Laura released her third album, A Creature I Do Not Know. It was a triumphant album, one that saw Laura finally embrace her folkstress status and eschew the “indie nu-folk” label that stuck around through her first two efforts. It was an album riddled with stories, metaphors and characters. Once I was an Eagle is a different story altogether. Where Laura’s favoured metaphor and storytelling in the past, she’s flinchingly honest now.
In When Were You Happy, Laura sings “I find the more I think the harder it is to breathe.” In Love Be Brave she sings “How did I sleep at night, with you so far from my side?” In Saved These Words she sings “Thank-you naivety for failing me again.” The album reads like a diary entry, the most personal songwriting Laura’s showcased since 2010’s Blackberry Stone. Whilst she’s more than capable of telling a story, and knows her way around lyrical imagery, Laura’s at her best when she’s being honest.
The sixteen songs that make up Once I Was an Eagle were written over the course of a number of years, with Pray for Me being an old live favourite since the release of her second album in 2009. It’s more a collection of songs than a traditional album, like a greatest hits of new material. What it lacks in cohesiveness, it more than makes up for in variety. There’s the gentle, unaccompanied acoustic lullaby of Little Bird, the crashing drums and banjo of Master Hunter and the angry shouts of Saved These Words.
At just over an hour in runtime, and with each song hovering around the five-minute mark, it’s Laura’s most sprawling effort to date. Once I was an Eagle has taken the best bits from each of her previous albums and combined them to form an expansive, twisting, turning performance that stands alone as one of the greatest folk albums in a very, very long time.

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