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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Alas, I cannot stop listening to this album....
The music on Laura Marling's debut album isn't entirely what I expected but, in a different way it's a lot more than I expected. What I thought would be a quiet, subtle, poppy folk album turned out to be a bold, creative, eclectic and incredibly exciting poppy folk album. Considering how youg Laura Marling is, `Alas, I Cannot Swim', has the markings of an artist ten years...
Published on 17 Feb. 2008 by Amplified Man

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a grower I think
Some albums immediately connect others take time. Well, I've been 'trying' for sometime now and I'm still immune to Ms Marling's charms. It could be said that 'Alas I Cannot Swim' is a slow burning album which rewards a bit of concentration. But should an album need to be 'worked' at, you ask? Well, I'm happy to 'work' at enjoying some of Miles Davis latter day efforts,...
Published on 12 Oct. 2011 by os


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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Alas, I cannot stop listening to this album...., 17 Feb. 2008
This review is from: Alas I Cannot Swim (Audio CD)
The music on Laura Marling's debut album isn't entirely what I expected but, in a different way it's a lot more than I expected. What I thought would be a quiet, subtle, poppy folk album turned out to be a bold, creative, eclectic and incredibly exciting poppy folk album. Considering how youg Laura Marling is, `Alas, I Cannot Swim', has the markings of an artist ten years older.

The lyrics are clever, interesting and at times quite thought provoking. The music is, admittely, secondary to Marling's voice but remains varied and creative enough to superseed that assumption. The focal point though, is indeed her voice. It's fantastic. Nothing more needs saying on the matter.

The majority of the tracks are pleasant, stupidly enjoyable poppy folk tracks; Old Stone, Tap At My Window, The Captain & the Hourglass. But there is the odd curveball thrown in. Ghosts is the opening track and doesn't sound quite like anything else on the album somehow and is definitley a higlight. Cross You Fingers sounds fairly upbeat but boasts the a chorus of; "cross your fingers, hold your toes, we're all gonna die when the building blows." The opening lyric to My Manic & I; "he wants to die in a lake in Geneva, where the mountains can cover the shape of his nose." Unorthodox indeed for a pop record, which intrigues me even more.
Crawled Out of the Sea is the biggest curveball and possibly the most effective; it's a kind folk shanty, complete with accordion and serves to break up the album and is even stated as an "(Interlude)".

It's my view that Marling is strongest when branching out a tad like this; where a natural eschewing of convention needs nurturing. I prefer my music a little darker and when Marling edges over slightly there is a whole lot more depth of meaning which suggests she'll be around a whole lot more in the future.

So, `Alas I Cannot Swim' boasts a very promising young talent and if she can fill an entire album with tracks as strong as the best on here, then she'll be a force to be reckoned with. I know it's only February but this could be my album of the year so far.
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94 of 98 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's all gone swimmingly, 12 Mar. 2008
By 
Dudley Serious - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Alas I Cannot Swim (Audio CD)
Female singer-songwriters are like buses (not necessarily in appearance, you understand, and I'm not naming names): you wait ages and then three turn up at once. We seem to be inundated with them at the moment, and one who deserves the spotlight but isn't getting it so much (because she hasn't been seen shooting her mouth off in public or falling out of nightclubs) is Laura Marling. Her debut "Alas, I Cannot Swim" has also been somewhat overlooked because it is not in a pop/r'n'b idiom and she doesn't sing about, well, falling out of nightclubs. She appears to draw inspiration from an earlier generation of folk-rock singers, the likes of Joni Mitchell, Melanie, Jacqui McShee (of Pentangle), Linda Thompson etc.

The subject matter of her songs is a long way removed from the infatuations of (supposedly) hip urbanites trying to buy tequila at 4.00 a.m. too. Her lyrics sound rooted in the land, influenced more by Thomas Hardy or, in modern terms, Graham Swift than by the usual Camden Town obsessions. For someone who is still a teenager she displays a very mature take on difficult subjects such as parental strife, mental illness, death. God only knows what she might have to say by the time she's twenty-five. This is not to say the album is miserable. It is quite introspective, quite melancholy, but not all sad. "You're No God" and "My Manic and I" have an austere humour and light, lilting style. "Cross Your Fingers" has an almost nursery rhyme feel. And like many nursery rhymes, if you think about it, the words are much darker than the tune. The deft, basic acoustic folk backing is augmented here and there by strings and accordion.

So "Alas, I Cannot Swim" is not a party record. You might not play it getting ready to go out on Saturday night. But you might when you get home at whatever time on Sunday. And sitting at home any time, with a malt whisky, not an alcopop.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars of the new crop of female brits she's the best, 23 Feb. 2008
By 
Mr. I. Morill "mossy" (west yorkshire) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Alas I Cannot Swim (Audio CD)
Well first of all this is only the 2nd review i've felt moved to post (check out 'my friend the chocolate cake' by the way, great band ,ignore the silly name)I've been collecting music for over 30 years now (no not a boring old fart,i hope)Over the last 15 years or so i've found it difficult to find anything new or/and exciting. So have developed quite an eclectic taste... Cocteau twins,70's Miles Davis,MMW,DCD,Kate Rusby, Laura Veirs,Harold Budd,Bill Nelson,Durutti Column,Nouvelle vague,PCO,lots of different genres. I really like female singer songwriters..Joni,Suzanne Vega,Kristin Hersh,Kathryn Williams,Isabel Campbell,HeidiBerry(all wonderful)Let's face it there's a lot of over Americanised dross out there. I pre-ordered the album after seeing her on Later..Liked her performance.While waiting for the album i bought the 'ghosts'single. Oh no ... i didn't like it.Held out for the album expecting a disapointment. But no it's absolutley amazing.She was just 17 when she recorded it (forget that, it shouldn't matter)but it's still an amazing achievement.I'm reluctant to try and describe it (read the other reviews they do a better job than i) but the bottom line is,great music is great music, and talent is talent.It's been many years since i've played an album over and over and over like i've played this.And i now like the track 'ghosts' too in the context of the album.A triumph.You won't be disapointed it gets better with every listen.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great start from a genuine talent, 17 Feb. 2008
By 
IWFIcon - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Alas I Cannot Swim (Audio CD)
If only because Laura Marling isn't another female singer-songwriter jumping on the Amy Winehouse bandwagon this album is like a breath of fresh air.

It's also refreshing that the teenage Marling doesn't sound, lyrically at least, her age. The likes of Adele and Amy Macdonald can instantly be identified as teenagers by some of their lyrics; Marling, on the other hand has a lyrical poise that defies her tender years.

Of course all of this is both a blessing and a curse in some ways; although one cannot say that Marling has been without her well-placed hype, her folk stylings mean that she's not got half the attention that the likes of Adele or Duffy have recieved as 2008 has kicked into gear. It's understandable, mainly due to the fact that her style is not neccesarily fit for Radio 1's target audience, so it perhaps a minor miracle that she's got the mainstream airplay she has at all.

The appeal of Marling lies somewhat in her simplicity. Background noises are left in the mix and her laughter can still be heard. But don't let the simplicity fool you; this is a darker record than her "contemporaries" have delivered. Indeed the pervading theme is the expression of acute heartbreak, a theme that Marling portrays with a lyrical sense that, again, belies her years.

It's not going to appeal to everyone and it is fair to say that it lacks the "mainstream" qualities that more hyped performers bring to the table. It's also fair to say that not everything quite hits the mark either. But there is more success than there is (relative) failure and there is certainly enough to suggest that Marling is rare talent. And like the best vintage wine, there is the definite feelining that Marling is going to improve with age.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Songbox - A Review, 11 Feb. 2008
By 
D. Gladden (Colchester, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Having read a favourable review of the album in a newspaper I found on the train I placed an order on Amazon. The packaging is amazing - the CD comes in a cardboard sleeve inside a large box that also contains a board game, art postcards, a voucher for a free gig ticket, a pamphlet containing song lyrics, a tiny cardboard sleeve (about the size of a mini-CD sleeve) containing a fold-out series of prints and a large envelope (no, I don't know why).

Anyone old enough to have bought vinyl albums in the past will appreciate the thought that went into the packaging, all of which gives you something to read through and enjoy on the way home before you get to hear the album itself.

The album has been produced to a very high standard and the musicians all play very well. Her voice, gentle and relaxed, sits well in the mix and the music sucks you in and mellows you out. It's twelve tracks long but they're over before you know it. My personal favourite is The Captain and the Hourglass, which I found myself listening to repeatedly once I'd heard the album all the way through.

The singer's voice reminds me very much of Joni Mitchell and, bar a few ill-advised attempts at some high notes, is very easy on the ears. The songs on the album complement each other nicely and on the whole it reminds me of happy summers in the past, drinking gin and tonic in the park and falling asleep under the sun.

All in all a refreshing change from the mass produced pop that all sounds so similar these days. If you like to hear proper music, played on real instruments by talented musicians, then this is definitely for you.

The only downside of buying the Songbox edition is that the box, being roughly the same size as a ring binder, won't fit in a normal CD rack.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stunning talent is born, 25 April 2008
By 
This review is from: Alas I Cannot Swim (Audio CD)
This is just a great, great record. I saw Laura Marling support Rufus Wainwright last year, and didn't think she was anything special, but since then she seems to have completely re-invented herself. For a young woman of 18, her lyrics are incredibly mature and engaging - just compare her to someone like Kate Nash and her mockney warbling about boy troubles, and you despair of the gulf between their public profiles. Sometimes they have a quite nightmarish quality to them - literally on Night Terror, but also in the dark fable The Captain and the Hourglass ('behind every tree is a cutting machine' gives me the shivers). They can also be very funny, though (Failure laments another musician's waste of talent: 'he lost poetic ethic, and his songs are pathetic'). Marling's beautiful voice adds real emotional heft, too. Just listen to her on Your Only Doll, where a young woman suffers at the hands of an abusive partner - not autobiographical, I hope, but she conjures a whole, benighted life with complete conviction and tragic power in the space of four minutes. Likewise, on the gorgeous 'Tap at My Window', where the character berates her progenitors - 'Father I love you, but how can you watch as I push her away/ I cannot forgive you for bringing me up this way' - Marling inhabits this so completely that you worry what her own parents make of it.

Combine all this with wonderful tunes, superb arrangements, and a healthy sprinking of magic dust that makes the whole album rise above its estimable parts, and you have one of the finest debut albums of the decade. I can only hope that word of mouth will eventually bring this record the global success it so richly deserves.

PS Don't miss the lovely, trad-folk title track hidden at the end.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marling stands out from other female singer-songwriter, gripping and haunting, 19 Feb. 2010
I became aware of Laura Marling after Noah and the Whale sprang onto the scene with that darn catchy summer jingle of 2008. I was already a great fan of Emmy the Great (Marling was Lee's replacement after she left Noah and the Whale) and decided to check out a few tracks from her London Town EP. I was mildly impressed with London Town, but pretty much let her slip from my music radar. Then she burst onto the scene with Alas I Cannot Swim and after hearing the album several times at a friend's house I bought it for myself. I fell in love with the vivid lyrics of tracks like "Ghosts", "My Manic and I" and "Night Terror". I must admit, a shiver went up my spine after listening to the third. Other tracks like "You're No God" and "Cross Your Fingers" with the departure from the gripping sound of Marling's voice and guitar alone was welcomed and gradually grew on me and I even harbour a particular liking for the interlude: "Crawled Out of the Sea" which for me climax as a carcophony of glorious musical sound. The title track itself was a surprising hidden gem after the chilling lyrics but emptyish sound of "Your Only Doll (Dora)". Overall, Marling delivers and improves upon the first inklings of potential talent displayed in her debut EP. I highly anticipate her sophomore album: "I Speak Because I Can" and think she can only go from strength to strength after such an honest and likeable debut album.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quiet and understated folk-pop, 16 Feb. 2008
By 
This review is from: Alas I Cannot Swim (Audio CD)
The debut album of 18-year-old Laura Marling, who grew up in Eversley near Reading, is a welcome surprise. With thirteen quiet and understated songs, she shuffles into the spotlight and onto a musical landscape dominated by balsy retro songs, mockney accents and diva attitudes. Marling - with delicate lyrics, a soft, hushed delivery and folky arrangements accompanied by strings - works against this tide (although it must be said when I met her briefly after a concert, she seemed quite confident and not as shy as she sings).

Her lyrics don't betray her age - she has a good hand for developing images, rather than creating and abandoning them: "The ring on my finger slips to the ground, a gift to the gutter". On Shine - where she is only accompanied by an acoustic guitar and the birds heard tweeting at the close - she sings with obvious self-reference "I am honest, not a shouter". Ghosts in a lover's nightmares are warned off ("If they want you, well, then they're gonna have to fight me") and melancholy is an intimate rival ("I need shine - stay away from my light").

There are a few songs that teeter too close to the twee and at least one that seems overproduced and let down by blander lyrics and instrumentation. Nevertheless this is a very good debut. If she ignores the mythologisation that journalists are bound to impose on her (reviews have already started referring to "her father teaching her the blues in front of the family fire"!) and manages to sidestep the trapdoors of tweeness and wistfulness, she could have an enviable career ahead of her. (4.5 stars)

Standouts: Shine, Failure, Night Terror, Crawled out of the Sea

For fans of: Anna Ternheim, Kathryn Williams, Beth Orton, Ane Brun
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Talent to burn, 29 Jun. 2008
By 
Gregory S. Buzwell "bagpuss007" (London) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Alas I Cannot Swim (Audio CD)
I usually try to be cool, focused and objective in my reviews but, for Laura Marling's debut album, I'll make an exception. 'Cool, focused and objective' can all take a backseat while their more emotional cousin 'dribbly wide-eyed adoration' takes the wheel, puts his foot down and heads for the sunlit hills. "Alas I Cannot Swim" is gorgeous, clever, moving and absolutely packed with the most exquisite melodies. If there has been a better album released in the past twelve months then, well, I for one haven't heard it.

Absolutely everything works in harmony on this album. The lyrics are dark, inventive ("He wants to die in a lake in Geneva/The mountains can cover the shape of his nose") and haunting, focusing on the impossibility of everlasting love; failure; the cold comforts of religious faith and lonliness. The melodies are gorgeously beautiful in a way that's almost indecent - to put it in very blunt and simple terms 'Alas I Cannot Swim' is absolutely packed with good old fashioned tunes, at least a couple of which ('The Captain and the Hourglass' and 'Your Only Doll (Dora)') sound so catchy and elegant that you can't quite believe they haven't been around for years. Oh yes, as if that wasn't enough Laura Marling's voice is wonderful: clear, beautiful and yet with an emotional fragility that highlights the haunted depths of her lyrics. And then there's more - she's comfortable writing and performing songs in numerous different styles and tempos. From the almost pop song "Ghosts", to the tortured depths of "Night Terror" to the near sea-shanty "Crawled out of the sea (interlude)" - perhaps the most casually brilliant throw-away minute and a half of music recorded in the last year - to the melancholy ballad "The Captain and the Hourglass" Marling carries it all off with talent to burn.

Enough already. If Laura Marling isn't well on her way to being recognised as a major and original talent then there is no justice in the world. She is - dribbly wide-eyed adoration coming up - absolutely fabulous. Buy the album, catch her live if you can - she is absolutely spellbinding on stage - and cherish every moment of what will hopefully be a long career. Alas I Cannot Swim - the best album I have heard for a very, very long time.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just astonishing, 11 Feb. 2008
By 
G. P. Smith (Surrey, England) - See all my reviews
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I know it is already a cliche to talk about her age, but it is simply astonishing that Laura Marling - only just 18 - has produced a collection of such strong, mature, musically and lyrically interesting songs. Don't think of her as competing with Adele, Kate or Lily; this is very different, much longer-lasting I suspect and takes her straight into comparisons with timeless female singer songwriters such as Joni Mitchell, Carole King and Sandy Denny. Some of the tracks - My Manic and I, Ghosts - sound like classics already after 2 or 3 plays. The instrumentation is subtle, always leaving her voice dominant, but adds variation and interest to songs that move through a variety of moods. Don't think of it as a 'folk' album either; there are elements of pop, rock, blues and even soul here.

It is the best debut record since the Arctic Monkeys, and will be in every 'Best of 2008' list in 10 monhs time. As long as she doesn't burn out, start dating Pete Docherty, or decide she wants to be the next Joss Stone, then Laura could be the most significant female singer-songwriter the UK has produced - well, ever basically. Yes, on the evidence here she really could be that good.
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