Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know (Virgin)

 

Every article or review about Laura Marling seems to contain a few central facts that seem to go hand in hand with the mention of her name. Firstly there’s her age (she’s only 21, you know?), her relationships with members of certain ubiquitous folk and pop bands (which you must know if you’re reading this) and then they probably mention her age again (did you know she’s only 21?) But all this serves to distract you from the facts – Marling is fast becoming an incredibly rounded and talented songwriter capable of matching the greats of her field.

 

It’s a feat she achieves more repeatedly on this new record than her previous work, but she instils each song here not just with her own indelible mark, but populates them with richly drawn characters. There are repeated references to a beast on numerous songs, not least The Beast itself. The track has a darkly sensual air as it grows from Marling’s seductive whisper into something ominous and menacing over 6 stunning minutes. She is equally capable of deliciously sweet melody too, evidenced by the effortless Don’t Ask Me Why, which even throws some lustrous Eastern melodicism to it’s Joni Mitchell-esque vocal.

 

Marling’s voice has always been a powerful weapon, but here she achieves new heights and contrasts, occasionally using accents to dramatise her stories. Varying from the delicate, baroque harmonies of Rest In The Bed to the freewheeling jazz-country (it’s better than that sounds, trust me!) of opener The Muse. The most impressive thing about this record is the pools of inspiration Marling draws from are so obvious, but handled with such dexterity and skill that it lends the songs a timeless quality.

 

It’s a skill demonstrated brilliantly by lead single Sophia. Rising from a simple guitar melody and Marling’s coy lyric “Who’s been touching my skin? Who have I been letting in?“, the tracks shifts up the gears to a strong, strutting conclusion. It’s a delightfully assured piece of work, that frames the key fact about Laura Marling’s transformation over her three records to date – ambition and confidence. With those two powerful allies, who knows what wonders are ahead of her?

 

Release Date – 13/09/2011

[Rating: 4.5]

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