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Laura Marling – Once I Was An Eagle

August 4, 2013

laura Marling

I have been sitting on this album for several weeks now.  I meant to write a review right away, but a busy life got in the way.  I was feeling a little guilty and then a I read a profound interview with Jay-Z where he said: “…you can’t listen to an album and rate it in a day. It’s just impossible.”  Well I have been listening to this album almost every day for about three weeks  – I have been marinating in it.

When this album first came out, I was vaguely aware of it – it had a little hype.  Then I was paging through the infamous Boston Bomber Rolling Stone and I came across an article “Is Laura Marling the New Joni Mitchell?”  Well that is quite a question and I am pretty major Joni fan so I dug into the article.

I was intrigued enough to give it a Spotify listen and I was pretty blown away – this is Blue for the new millennium.  Marling channels Joni Mitchell, Norah Jones, Nick Drake, Ryan Adams (Ethan Johns produces and plays on the album) and even a little Patti Smith.

My new gauge of an album is do I want to buy the vinyl and there was no question with this one.  And it looks like Marling was even thinking about vinyl in the presentation.  Side one is a seamless song cycle. One of the most outstanding and coherent sides I have heard in a long time.  Each of the four sides is a chapter.  This could be 4 albums or at least 4 EPs.  This is one of the many problems with the CD – you throw it in the slot and let it roll – sometimes you need to listen to 4 or 5 song sequence over and over – sometimes you need to never flip the album.

Let’s go back to Joni.  I first heard Joni Mitchell in 1977.  I was a freshman in college and living in a Catholic seminary dorm.  My neighbor was a hip older guy from Omaha who had an intriguing past for a seminarian.  Some how we hit it off – I was a hopeless nerd and I think he felt sorry for me.  One night he invited me over to his room and said “I am going to blow you mind.”  He rolled one, fired it up and played Joni’s Court and Spark on his sweet stereo.  My mind was blown and my life was changed.  I can trace my passion as a music head and audiophile to that fateful evening.  I was hooked and I began a life long schoolboy crush on female singer-songwriters.

I listened to Laura Marling’s back catalog on a long bike ride today.  It was good and there are moments that foreshadow Once I Was An Eagle, but nothing to suggest that she was capable of this kind of masterpiece.  This is a breakout – a breakthrough – an artist finding her authentic voice.  This is deep and contemplative pop music.  It is very intimate.  Imagine overhearing a conversation though a thin wall or hearing the troubled thoughts of a beautiful woman.  The vocals, the arrangements and the lyrics are melancholia.  I love this mood – it is not depression for me – but an honest embrace of life – the joys and the sorrows and everything in between.  Life is real – it is ecstasy , it is pain.

Joni wrote a masterpiece and called it Blue.  It was not the blues, but it was.  Laura Marling has written a masterpiece that is a current Blue – again it is not the blues, but it is.


From → Music Reviews

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