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Laura Marling: New Album 'Once I Was An Eagle' Reviewed

Hyperbole doesn't quite do Laura Marling justice. She is, record by record, cementing and reaffirming her place as the greatest female singer-songwriter of a generation.

Hyperbole doesn't quite do Laura Marling justice. She is, record by record, cementing and reaffirming her place as the greatest female singer-songwriter of a generation.

Once I Was An Eagle, the trademark literary tipped name to her fourth studio album, shares and builds upon the Marling tropes that have been long celebrated by fans and critics alike on her previous releases.

Again produced by Ethan Johns; their now trilogy of collaborations have grown from each record to the next, the observation that Marling is an artist 'beyond her years' now straying dangerously close to clichéd territory.

However, as is customary in the realm of the aforementioned cliché, a lot of truth remains lurking behind the often-regurgitated phrase. Throughout listening to Once I Was An Eagle, the doe-eyed adolescent behind early songs such as 'New Romantic' is thoroughly unrecognisable, a now 23 year-old Marling seemingly having experienced a lifetime in but a handful of years.

While this may be misconstrued as failing to recognise the true talent of the artist herself, in truth, Marling fully personifies and embodies the singer-songwriter moniker. Not only in possession of a naturally beautiful vocal, both live and recorded, her ability as a songwriter is often overlooked, her prolific output whilst managing to balance both quality and quantity to perfection becoming tantalisingly Dylan-esque.

Whilst some may resent that a young, attractive, well-read, privately educated and female artist is experiencing such a rich vein of form and success, the fact of the matter remains that it hasn't come about without hard work. Her songs are often born out copious amounts of lengthy, unpublished poetry and short stories, as well a technique she uses to fuel ambiguity, writing letters and jotting down imaginary conversations with those she has never met.

The new record is definitely bolder than what has come before, Ethan John's clearly comfortable enough working with Marling to really push the boundaries in terms of gaining a fuller noise; whilst the focal point remains guitar and vocal, the supporting cast of instruments appears to have multiplied, giving songs thematic and sonic influences you wouldn't have initially anticipated.

The 'twee' shackles girls with guitars often find themselves bound by are again completely shattered, the vocal delivered more powerful, the guitar playing more intricate and lyricism ever more complete. It's often stated that good books help paint pictures in your minds eye, and Marling's songs are no different, her wordplay at it's extremely vivid best.

While the record as a whole is another wonderfully complete body of work, songs such as Devil's Resting Place, Master Hunter and Oncestandout especially during the 16-track collection, showcasing her ability to not only convey complete vulnerability through well placed personal pronouns, but adversely broadcast the power and passion that has seen her labelled a feminist icon by some.

In short; Marling proves that age is irrelevant, academia is acceptable and personification needn't be compulsory. She may be the daughter of a Baronet with links to the aristocracy, but that isn't a gimmick played upon. Public relationships and consequent break-up's with the front men of bands such as Noah & The Whale and Mumford & Sons are known about, but aren't explicitly explored. Marling has given birth to a creative niche for herself that allows her to operate on her own terms, an achievement that is ever more unique in today's musical landscape.

Having relocated to Los Angeles in order to further protect the sanctity of her privacy, Laura Marling remains as intriguing a proposition as a person as she is an artist. Wonderfully erudite whenever interviewed, she appears reluctant to embrace fame as many other artists do, the mystique she inadvertently shrouds herself in only further enhancing speculation regarding the person behind the music.

England has a proud history of producing generation defining female singer-songwriters; the likes of Polly Harvey and Kate Bush can attest to that much - however in Laura Marling, we have an artist not only capable of carrying on that fabled mantle, but dare I say, improving upon it as she does so.

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