Laura Marling "Once I Was An Eagle" review on Northern Transmissions

Artist: Laura Marling
Title:Once I Was An Eagle
Record Label: Rough Trade
Rating: 8.0/10

Upon listening to Laura Marling’s fourth LP, Once I Was An Eagle, it’s really hard to fathom how, when this writer first experienced the young songstress supporting the now defunct band Goodbooks in Oxford in 2005, she has blossomed from what can only be described as a rap-folk starlet to a acoustic guitar wielding prolific 23 year old. Back then in 2005 watching Marling rapidly attack her six string whilst belting out quicker fire verses like a female Jamie T, it’s bizarre to think that blonde haired teenager would thrill the world with four albums of folk-like charm, sans the gutter-hop vibes.

In five years Marling has produced four records all of which critically acclaimed and this latest effort is no exception. Once I Was An Eagle is waif like in construction, with Marling’s voice the most prominent factor amongst the acoustic strums and various layers of subtle string work. The record is akin to one long thread weaving through an extravagant form of tapestry and most songs meld into the next without so much as a pause. The fluid nature of Marling’s new document provides a dream-like experience which has its up’s and down’s. In one respect the album is enchanting but equally the solitary coo Marling possesses coupled with brittle instrumentation means the album doesn’t always hold your attention, however this isn’t exactly the worst thing in the world, everyone loves a day dream right?

It’s telling that the singer-songwriter has chosen two vehicles to experience Once I Was An Eagle, one being the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in LA and further more Marling is to stage an immersive set of live shows from 13th-21st June in a secret east London location. The latter is to let Marling’s devotees travel through the new album whilst being part of the performance, the former location the perfect destination to emphasis the stark hushed tones OIWAE illustrates.

Themes of tumultuous love seep into Marling’s wares, as does the notion of becoming an adult and the gap between teenagedom and the realization of being a (gasp) grown up. Amongst the more traditional delicate folk arrangements you’ll also find something of a medieval leaning from OIWAE, ‘Master Hunter’ pictures our protagonist draped in animal skins stalking the wilderness for her next kill, while the macabre sounding ‘Devil’s Resting Place’ is a menacing ode pitched somewhere near the bowels of hell. When the Hampshire resident isn’t in predatory mode or flirting with the red horned monster, she flexes a country twang on ‘Where Can I Go?’ and the freewheeling ‘Undine’.

Majestically simplistic, you can’t help but watch Marling soar like the predatory bird her album title possesses.

Words and Thoughts of Adam Williams

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