29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on 27 March 2010
I've had this album on repeat since I downloaded it a couple of days ago. I'd downloaded it, knowing there was a possibility I wouldn't like it at all. I liked Alas I Cannot Swim [Explicit] and I liked New Romantic and Typical from My Manic And I [Explicit], but musicians have this terrible ability to change that I always worry about. This is different.
Its amazing. This doesn't feel like folk or indie- it sounds like blues to me, maybe even soul. It reminded me of Blue, one of my favourite albums of all time, not because its like it, but because it's an emotional journey.
The album's like a wave, forming with Devil on a Spoke, reminding me of American folk, but then cresting with Made by Maid and Rambling Man softly bringing you down to the fizz of Blackberry Stone to Alpha Shallows on a Greek beach for dancing around a beach fire. Goodbye England (Covered In Snow) is beautiful, not just because it reminds me of this January's frightful beauty, but it's so soft, yet rising. There's some anger in Hope in the Air, but there's pure fantasy and magic in What He Wrote, which is my favourite song from the album. Darkness Descends is a lifting wave, taking you back out to sea on a party boat, before the title song settles you down to the rocking boat as a storm blows by.
The sound quality is excellent, an improvement on Alas and her voice comes through amazingly. The music's simple- mostly guitar, with the odd flourish from back up singers and clarinets etc. Her voice- it's as magical as always. But I think in this album, I hear more passion, more love and bitterness and excitement. And this is what has given me shivers. It's wonderful.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 25 July 2011
I absolutely adore Laura Marling, but on first listen I would have given this album perhaps... either 3 or 4 stars, probably 4 stars. (i am very generous with stars)
The reason behind that is because I loved loved LOVED "Alas, I cannot swim" and for me, the darkness of "I speak because I can" was too different and too ... for want of a better word, frightening for me. After I got used to the change however, I think I love "I speak because I can", perhaps even more than the first album. for people that know her first album, her second is slightly bolder and slightly louder (well as loud as Laura Marling can be), with more things like banjos in (the mumford & sons influence- all of them apart from one contributed to the album so maybe you can kind of imagine the effect).
for me, Laura Marling's music is very lonely and melancholy. Her simplicity is haunting and even her songs with a bit more of a beat or her songs that are written in the major key still hold that loneliness and melancholy. This is why I love her so much. The way she sings is effortless. This is how I would describe her: an effortless talent. In other words, a natural talent. I think that's lacking in recent times. People who dislike her music probably dislike her lack of extreme and obvious sounds in both the music and in her singing, but for me it's refreshing. It's all a matter of taste but I thought I would try and describe why I like her, so that hopefully others can get an idea of what her music is like. it's very hard to explain but for me, her music holds all sorts of meaning that i had never experienced until i discovered her.
65 of 72 people found the following review helpful
Laura Marling carries a huge weight on her young shoulders, She is still only 20 and yet following an astonishing debut album and a clutch of singles not least of all the brilliant "New Romantic" which she deliberately choose to leave off "Alas I cannot swim" the expectation around this second album is huge. In addition her personal life has become a factor (like it or not). The very public outpouring of heartbreak angst from her ex Charlie Fink of Noah and the Whale on "The First days of spring" has sealed this. Oh and just for good measure her very close chums in the album's backing band Mumford and Sons are currently as popular as Wayne Rooney at Old Trafford.
What makes her so special? The answers are vulnerability, versatility and voice. This sophomore album displays all these qualities in good measure. It is an incredibly mature set of songs containing a number of latent classics and potentially the best female voice I have heard since the young Joni Mitchell. Sorry if you think this hyperbole but with talent like this why be measured?
Having listened to this album constantly on repeat since the Times kindly streamed it (and be assured the Amazon order is in) it confirms an enormous step forward and not least since she has avoided the obvious rerun of her debut and some of its more commercial elements. The above paper has called it a "very British album - think snow-covered England, blackberries and cold noses". This description goes someway to capturing its atmospherics of folk rock but not the lyrical depth and breadth which many of her contemporaries lack.
Overall what is noticeable are the many echoes of Dylan on this album. The powerful opener "Devils spoke" has that driving acoustic propulsion and lyrical flow that underpinned "It's alright ma (I'm only bleeding)". It is a bracing and exuberant start. A later powerful song "Hope in the air" reeks of Dylan era "Bringing it back home". "Made by Maid" a gentle ballad could be a riposte to Neil Young's "Man needs a Maid" and then we are into one of the real highlights "Rambling Man". Here the resonances of the Joni Mitchell from the era of "Court and Spark" kicks in. The vocal is stunning and the song charts her vulnerability when she sings
"Beaten, battered, and cold
my children will live just to grow old
but if i sit here and weep
I'll be blown over by the slightest of breeze"
The excellent "Blackberry stone" is an older song which many will have already heard. It has a swooning violin in the background and is first rate. It is followed by an matchless highlight "Alpha Shadows" a song of controlled fury and power which does have a strong Mumford's feel about it. Then comes the utterly gorgeous Goodbye England (covered in snow) forever destined to be a wintry Christmas classic. You really must have a heart of stone not to adore this and it's the one song closest to the sprit of her debut. The three remaining songs are the poignant confessional "What he wrote" where she candidly admits "I miss his smell"; the gossamer light gentility and steady growing exuberance of "Darkness Descends" and epic searing closer "I speak because I can"
Laura Marling has recorded a beguiling and timeless second album and the transition from a teenager to a major artist has been achieved in three short years. Who knows what she can deliver in the future but here we have singer where emerging comparisons to singers like Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell are already possible and where perhaps we should worry less about her private life and more about her mercurial talent.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 27 March 2011
Laura Marling is perhaps my favourite musician of all time. My absolute favourite track on this album is Blackberry Stone; one of the live versions is a bit better though, with Marcus Mumford on backup vocals and mandolin... Anyway, all of the songs are great, you will never get disappointed when it comes to Laura Marlings music.
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on 21 April 2010
Just a little bit of information for everyone interested in buying the special edition of the album. I bought this because I've seen the live performances from Laura Marling with the Mumford Band on YouTube and really liked it. But don't be fooled by the listings of the songs on the amazon description page, below that it says the DVD is a documentary and that's exactly what it is.
Although it says on the back of the album "Live from the Royal Festival Hall" all you really get are very short clips of the performances with commentary from Laura Marling & Band. But the commentary is sort of woven right into the songs.
Obviously there exists a full live performance of this concert somewhere because the bits you do see are properly filmed and recorded, but just not on this DVD. So while the songs are almost always disturbed by the commentary, that very commentary is often trivial and in return disturbed by the song clips.
In the end the DVD from the special edition is neither fish nor fowl, maybe it would have been much smarter to put the complete concert on the DVD and put the comments either between the songs or on a completely different DVD altogether. I was very disappointed by the documentary/concert and recommend buying only the album without the DVD. The only real reason I see for buying the special edition are the five bonus tracks you can download with codes found inside the special edition (the codes are printed on the back of postcards with some nice pictures on them).
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Laura Marling's second album takes its groundings in her first and expands, improves and revises all of the things that made the last so good. It is a beguiling, bewitching album - good on first listen, but definitely a grower, getting better with each listen. Ethan Johns (of Ryan Adams and Ray LaMontagne fame, amongst others) was at the helm for production, and he has really drawn out the best of Laura. The album sounds fantastic.
The songs on here are more mature, as if Laura has really grown into the songwriter she aspired to be on 'Alas, I Cannot Swim'. Several of the songs have a very Dylan-esque feel to them in the way she delivers the lyrics and spins a story. The subject of the songs are somewhat ambiguous, yet this only makes them more appealing, songs for everyman. It is a darker album than the first too, playing well on dynamics and instrumentation. Songs build slowly, eventually reaching a crescendo in the climax. 'Hope in the Air' is a good example, starting with a quiet guitar, before a bass-y piano is introduced, then banjo, drums, another guitar, all with increasing ferocity and volume. Again, Mumford & Sons act as backing band (Marcus can often be heard providing backing vocals), and the influence is particularly evident in this production style. There is more energy in the performances, more assurance in the delivery of the lyrics. It is a very English album in its feel, with the exceptions of 'Devil's Spoke' and the title track (which are slightly Eastern-tinged, inspired perhaps by her recent trip to India with Mumford). This is especially evoked on 'Goodbye England (Covered in Snow)', but there is a wintry ambience throughout, as if Laura intended the album to be heard in solitude, with headphones on.
Overall, I cannot find fault with the album. It is excellent, a step forward from her debut. Laura sounds more assured, more confident in her abilities as a songwriter; you can hear it in her voice and delivery. The album is a beautiful collection of songs, each brilliant in its own right. 'Rambling Man' and 'Darkness Descends' are catchy examples of great folk-rock, while the ballads are exceptional. My only issue - and it is a slight one - is that 'Alpha Shallows' and 'Blackberry Stone' were released as b-sides previously. With another album rumoured for release later this year, I can only hope that she keeps writing songs of a similar quality.
It does Laura Marling no favours to overrate her, as I believe some do. But what a refreshing change she makes from the shrill caterwaulers and faux-ingenuous girly chirpers who`ve between them infected music in recent years.
The singer she most reminds me of on this superbly mature, sparely arranged record is Natalie Merchant, and for me there can be no higher praise. She has that same slightly clipped way of articulation, a wry, sly quality to her voice. She can also pen a lyric that doesn`t fall apart at the seams on reading it in print (as one can in the otherwise meagre booklet that comes with this disc).
Rambling Man won an award, and it stands out among nine other excellent songs, with Made By Maid and Alpha Shallows two other memorable songs. She writes well of the messy reality of relationships, wise beyond her still young years.
I think this is a set of songs to live with for a long time, letting them grow on one, her knowing lyrics married to deceptively simple tunes etching their way into your life. There`ll be those moments when you`re not sure what to play next - then you realise, it`s Laura or nothing!
I`m so tempted to give this an open-armed five stars (and I may yet amend my rating upward) but my intense liking for this sparkling, often startling album hasn`t yet quite turned to love.
So, nine out of ten? That seems fair.
She was all of twenty when she made this coherent, intelligent record, and it`s a quietly stunning achievement.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 8 June 2010
Laura Marling's first album (Alas I cannot Swim) is simply one of the best albums I've ever heard, so to say that I had high expectations for its follow up is an understatement.
I Speak Because I Can is a more mature sounding album than it's predecessor, but in this case that actually is to its detriment. The pop element of her former album has been dropped and with it some playfulness and diversity. Where as the sound on Alas I cannot Swim is cinematic and ever shifting, I Speak Because I Can is more even and sombre.
Musically I found the instrumentation in many of the tracks too busy and jangly, much like Mumford and Sons' style (which too me is like a whole room full of people shouting to get their individual view across, but no one voice can be heard clearly). I also wish that Laura had recorded her voice with a more detailed microphone, as the one she uses softens her voice too much, which is a shame as she has a beautiful voice.
I Speak Because I Can is not a terrible album, despite falling into the classic sophomore album trap of taking itself a little too seriously, but it is a flawed album. I recommend auditioning the album on Spotify before buying, as this album is certain to disappoint some.
My favourite tracks on the album were: 4 - Blackberry Stone, 8 - What He Wrote and 9 - Darkness Descends.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 August 2011
This is music that heightens the senses, nutures the soul and make you feel as though you are sitting in front of a warm fireplace. It's that good. If you love folk music, look no further to Laura Marling. This is a fantastic second album that will be cherished for years to come. Be sure to check out 'Rambling Man' and 'Alpha Shallows' as they are the standout tracks on a near perfect album.
BUY IT NOW!!!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 21 October 2011
I must admit that I was a little underwhelmed when I first heard this record all the way through, but now it's often on repeat in my car and it seems to draw me in more with every listen. Haunting melodies, lyrics that sound other-worldly and disjointed, and Marling's expressive and sensitive voice make this record unique and memorable.