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You know a masterpiece when you hear it. An example of late is Laura Marling’s new record entitled Once I Was An Eagle in which she humbly showcases her acoustically-driven musical and vocal virtuosity. Once I Was An Eagle begins with what seems like an introduction that lasts a quarter of an hour but is really four tunes seamlessly blended into one, the conglomeration of which comes across as just as effortless when played live.
Laura Marling at Amoeba, 5/20
Photo by me
The instrumentation on the album is really interesting to me, and I find myself very pleased and enthusiastic with the direction Laura Marling seems to be heading towards as well as with the risks she took in this album. The hints of strings and drums in conjunction with the melody of the acoustic guitar allude to a very eastern, almost Indian style reminiscent of the psychedelic turn taken by The Beatles in the latter half of the 1960s. Surprisingly, it suits Marling impeccably and helps contribute to her increasingly folk-y sound, no doubt a far diversion from the purely acoustic young woman who gave us Alas, I Cannot Swim and “New Romantic” so long ago.Marling, to me, is becoming more and more comfortable straying from her original sound while still providing listeners and longtime fans with traces of the Marling that was evident in previous records.
Perhaps what is most satisfying about Once I Was An Eagle is the lyrical content of its songs. Although Marling’s voice, whether because of its softness or timbre, inhabits a particular vulnerable characteristic that moves listeners to feel nothing but the deepest sympathies for her and her plights, her lyrics are of an entirely different nature. Listening to this album, I got the distinct feel that Marling was asserting herself and the stability of her own character, referring to herself as a “Master Hunter” in the wild Track 5 and calling a previous lover a “dove” that she, as an Eagle, “preyed” on (note: this could be one of many instances of wordplay in the album, because “prayed” would also make sense in the grand scheme of things), while concurrently producing an intensity and fervor that works to supplement her message and deliver the thematic content of the album flawlessly.
What I absolutely love about Once I Was An Eagle is that it speaks out to those who have been unwittingly victimized and paints the picture of putting an end to feelings of demeaned self-worth as a very real possibility and attainable goal. Moreover, I love that the record gives listeners diversity as Marling’s voice and plucking shifts from soft and droning to deep and ferocious while still somehow fitting the songs together in a way that convinces me Marling is a musician (Marling…Merling…Merlin…MERLIN. WIZARDRY). Lastly, I believe Laura Marling goes a long way in both contributing to and proving the power of female vocalists and singer-songwriters, illustrating their seemingly endless potential and very admirably reminding us of great women musicians of the past such as Joni Mitchell. Laura Marling is a walking legend.
2 - I Was An Eagle
5 - Master Hunter
6 - Little Love Caster
7 - Devil’s Resting Place
9 - Undine
12 - Pray for Me
In hand-embroidered towns.
To meet those
who are not born into the world.
At last we would be happily alone.
No stop would wait for us.
No arrival. No departure.
Evanescence in a museum.
No wars would fight for us.
No humanity. No army. No weapon.
Tipsy death. It would be fun.
In the library a multi-volume time.
Love. A mad chapter.
It would turn the pages of our hearts in a whisper."