Review: Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can

Artist: Laura Marling
Album: I Speak Because I Can
Genre: Folk
Label: Virgin

On her 2008 debut, then 18 year old Laura Marling struck a chord with critics and listeners all over the world with for the timeless soul that exists within her voice. Her earlier work with Noah and the Whale had put her on the radar with music fans, but  Alas, I Cannot Swim played like a haunting ode to romance that still to this day cannot be shaken. We at UTG liked the album enough to rank it on our inaugural “Best of the Year” list at #4. Now, two years and a lot of growing up later, the folk princess from England has finally returned with the equally beautiful and compelling I Speak Because I Can.

Starting off more upbeat than some may expect, I Speak will find you instantly rediscovering why Marling is one of the most notable voices of today. “Devil’s Spoke” moves from dark, ominous tones to a quick tongued track that Marling maneuvers with grace and poise. The instrumentation is much more present on this song than the entire last record, but it makes for a very moving piece that is both playful and heart string tapping at once. “Made by Maid” and “Rambling Man,” move slightly more to the bare bones sound of the first record while Marling weaves her web of tales and harmonies through trance inducing guitar work and light accompaniment that few will be able to turn away from.  “Rambling” even echoes with the spirit of a more Western/Country writing style and flow, but it works surprisingly well overall thanks to lines like, “It’s funny how the first chords that you come to, are the minor notes that come to serenade you.” If that doesn’t rattle in your skull for weeks, I simply don’t know what well.

As we move along, Marling makes few evolutionary steps, choosing rather to dig deeper into the folk roots she displayed on her debut. “Blackberry Stone” moves along gracefully with a simple 1-2 beat, but its the comforting tones of Marling’s voice that truly bring out the beauty of the song. Where Alas seemed to carry the burden of a heavy heart, a much more matured and wise Marling is present on this record and its most evident in the album’s lyrics. Tracks like the haunting “Alpha Shallows” or the dreary yet endearing “What He Wrote” will both have you shaken in your seat with their tragic beauty and while some of it is due to the heavier use of backing instruments, most of the praise falls on Marling alone. However the real gem of the album happens to be “Goodbye England [Covered in Snow]” in which Marling offers, “But a friend of mine says it’s good to hear/That you believe in love even if set in fear” along with other equally heartbreakingly well versed lines. It’s a simple song, but trust me, it packs a punch.

Finally, just before the record ends, Marling presents one of her most moving and powerful songs to date. “I Speak Because I Can” packs everything one could love about this artist into a single track and manages to channel seemingly every emotion through Marling’s voice. It’s a masterful bow on what is once again a subtle gem for the world of music.

Though she may never crack the top 40 or be on the cover of Rolling Stone, Laura Marling is the best thing to happen to female folk in years. Even with her young age, her music speaks of ageless tales and emotions anyone can connect with. If it’s not her beautiful, yet haunting tones that move you, it will be the stories in the songs or the gorgeous expanded accompaniment found on this record. I Speak Because I Can isn’t just a worthy follow-up for Marling, but a powerful record for a genre many overlook. It’ll move you.

Score: 8.5/10
Review written by: James Shotwell

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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  • In a world of mediocre dull music, Laura Marling carries the flaming torch of inspirationally imaginative and emotive music within her gentle soul. She is certainly a colourful character despite the monochrome cover but what makes her so endearing is the veins of darkness that flow with malevolent fury through her simply beautiful voice. I’m glad that she is getting some commercial acclaim, music with meaning and heart has been absent for too long from the charts.

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