Albums of 2010, No 8: Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can

On her second album, Marling's talents not only belie her age, they show how much the 20-year-old has matured

Laura Marling's second album, released earlier this spring, was a breathtaking accomplishment. Though her debut, Alas I Cannot Swim, was a beguiling collection of songs that suggested a rich and distinctive talent, it offered little indication of the furious speed with which her songwriting would mature; I Speak Because I Can is the kind of album musicians spend a lifetime hoping to make.

There is something about Marling's songwriting that is crisp and unflinching, something almost painfully precise. In the album's title track, it's there in the needlepoint sharpness: "I speak because I can, to anyone I trust enough to listen/You speak because you can to anyone who'll hear what you say." But she counterbalances such moments with sudden twists of sentiment, lets the coolness of her voice grow rougher, rawer, and brings a kind of gusty, unleashed quality to lines such as: "Never rode my bike down to the sea, never quite figured out what I could believe, never got up and said anything worthy, for he, for my."

Stand-out tracks include the rollicking Ramblin' Man, the wistful, defiant Goodbye, England and the brief, bittersweet Blackberry Stone, the latter a quiet rumination on death and appreciating the simpler pleasures of life: "I'd be sad that I never held your hand as you were lowered," she sings in one of the album's most devastating lyrics. "But I'd understand that I would never let you go."

This year, Marling stands quite peerless among not only her own generation of songwriters, but also generations before her; a quite extraordinary feat.


Laura Barton

The GuardianTramp

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