Sunday 9 June 2013

Laura Marling - Once I Was An Eagle

Since the release of her debut in 2008, Marling has become the darling of the music press, with two Mercury Prize nominations and countless amounts of praise.  A major player in the folk revival of recent years, her soft, pure vocal and lilting guitar playing have proven to be a suitable vehicle for her emotional storytelling.  'Once I Was An Eagle', however, will do little to appease her critics.

Unlike previous album 'A Creature I Don't Know' that branched out in instrumentation, this fourth album mostly strips things back to voice and guitar, occasionally laced with strings, percussion or organ.  The composition of each song is subtle and lyrically dense - but this means nothing if the music isn't engaging.  This is where Marling falls down.

Each song settles into a slow or mid-tempo, lacking in memorable melodic lines or variety in instrumentation and vocal character.  Even after repeated listening, this is an album that continuously fades into the background and evades your grasp.  There's no sense of immediacy - instead, like a lullaby, the music drifts along nicely enough whilst your mind wanders into another, far more interesting plane of thought.  This isn't helped when the opening handful of tracks bleed into one another in a continuous stream.  Indeed, no one track stands out, the album merely characterised by a general haze of bland music and singing.

Perhaps I'm missing something and there's some key that eventually locks into place.  Perhaps you'll like it.  Perhaps listening to too much pop and rock music has dulled my appreciation of subtlety. But sadly, 'Once I Was An Eagle' has failed to grab my attention in any way and is an album I would only keep on the shelf if sleep eluded me.

Perhaps a third Mercury Prize nomination (and potential win) are on the cards after all.


Gizzle's Choice:
* All and none of the tracks.

Listen: 'Once I Was An Eagle' is available now.