Review: I speak because I can by Laura Marling
This past week I have not left The Times website, as it offered a week early preview of Laura Marling's latest release, "I speak because I can". Normally with the built in flash players that are used for streaming such media, there is an option to skip tracks, which is one I wished for after hearing the beautiful new version of "Blackberry Stone" for the first time four tracks in. Luckily, this option wasn't offered and this resulted in me listening, and ultimately appreciating the album as a whole on a much wider and deeper level.
I managed to catch Laura Marling live at a small church with 89 other lucky people a few months ago in Cardiff. I always knew she was a young singer songwriter ever since she gained media acknowledgement with a Mercury music prize nomination for her debut "Alas, I cannot swim". But to actually see this slip of a girl stand on her own in front an expectant audience, I worried that her thin frame would buckle under the weight of her own songs. Luckily for her, they didn't, and it ended up being one of the best gigs I have been to so far.
One of Marlings traits is her slightly darker, heavier songwriting mixed with a vaguely detached, but still personal singing voice. This again is apparent for the second album, weighty songs and topics are handled delicately and masterfully. Two standout tracks on this theme are the tender "what he wrote" based on letters between two lovers during the first world war and the title track and "I speak because I can" which depicts a woman who husband left her and the vacancy she subsequently feels. There is a feminist undertone running throughout the album, which on first reading, you may feel would detract from the songs themselves, but this isn't an album with a message, it's one with a subject.
This is ultimately what I feel brings Laura Marling to the forefront of the British folk scene, she isn't afraid to embrace slightly darker elements of human nature and craft songs that affectionately and thoughtfully compliment the topics and her overall style, which isn't compromised at any point.
The album as a whole feels more competent and capable then her debut, as well as being more assured, which in turn eases the listener with the knowledge that she can handle her songs, but also raises the slightly scary thought that the best from her is still yet to come.