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4.2 out of 5 stars
A Creature I Don't Know
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
The forward march of Laura Marling continues unabated and seems unstoppable. Her last album "I speak because I can" landed as a fully formed and assured work where comparisons to great singer songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Janis Ian and Laura Nyro were not only possible but also entirely appropriate. On "A Creature I don't know" her third album (and remember she is only 21) she produces an album full of different colours and moods ranging from jazzy hoedowns', to Spanish inflected acoustics and in "the Beast" a uber powerful electronic lament which P J Harvey would have been proud to write. Marling also develops the trend found in "I speak" to a much braver confessional style of lyrics and lays her heart bare in a number of the songs, with broken romance the central theme. All these factors add up to a heady mix and it is hardly surprising that her forthcoming "Cathedral" tour is the hottest ticket in town.

The album starts by Marling's standards in a musical mood of frivolity with "The Muse" and "I was just a card". The first is a jazzy whirl of banjo's and cello's where Marling warns "Don't you be scared of me/I'm nothing but the beast/And I'll call on you when I need to feast." The second takes as its template the sort of melodic pop balladry of vintage Joni Mitchell circa "Court and Spark". It has enough that is distinctive to set it aside from mere reverence and it is a sparkling start. Things slow perceptibly in the next track "Don't ask me why" which would have happily fitted on "I Speak" and the powerful John Steinbeck inspired "Salinas" where you detect that Marling has become a more polished and sultry singer with the passage of time. As stated above "the Beast" is a real point of departure. A pensive start leads to angry chords and lyrics which act as a counterpoint to the opener "The Muse" where Marling bitterly regrets "Where did our love go, you will never know/ How did you get home, you will never know". This is underpinned by a huge menacing electric backdrop and thunderous conclusion. Its angry denunciation may mark her best song to date and shows that along with Joni Mitchell the New York rock poet Patti Smith may be a new source of inspiration. It is therefore some relief to be followed by the stunningly beautiful and gentile "Night after Night" a sort of Leonard Cohen style love confessional and in its own way an equal highlight. The song "My friends" alternatively has those Jose Gonzalez rolling guitar runs but to these ears is possibly the track on the album that may require most listening effort.

The final three songs however seal the deal. The wistful "Rest in best" builds in a powerful surge with Marling accompanied by angelic backing vocals. The single "Sophia" shows her bold confidence with an almost spoken introduction where she almost taunts a former love (Marcus Mumford?) that "Where I've been lately is no concern of yours/ whose been touching my skin/who have I been letting/shy and tired-eyed am I today". It is brilliant and bold and deserves to be heaped with accolades as it stretches out at 3 minutes to a huge acoustic monster. Finally the album ends with the exuberant "All my rage" which shows that Marling is still great friends with Johnny Flynn on a song that has a joyous Sussex Wit folk quality underpinning.

Marling is often described a fierce talent and on "A Creature I don't know" which is her third album in three years and masterly produced by Ethan Johns she fully confirms that her incredible maturity as a singer songwriter goes well beyond the moment of a "nu folk" flash in the pan. She has emerged as our finest young writer and on the evidence of this new album currently can do no wrong.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 13 September 2011
The music gets 5 stars. This is a really amazing album
However....I really don't appreciate paying £[] for a box set that includes a vinyl pressing of such appalling quality. The whole vinyl album has a sound running in the background that sounds like a distant airplane overlaid with insistent crackles and clicks. I'm sorry, just not good enough
The box set itself is an extraordinarily large box - odd in these environmentally conscious times - the download could have been the studio master but it isn't, shame
Still....5 stars for the wonderful music...I just expected the 'package' to do it justice
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I've only started listening to Laura Marling. I bought her 'I Speak Because I Can' and thought it was excellent. I immediately wanted to listen to more and checked to see what she had released more recently. I was delighted to see that she had released 'I was an Eagle'. I promptly downloaded and took great joy listening to it over the last two weeks. I downloaded 'A Creature I don't Know' yesterday and have listened to it a few times and think it is one of Ms Marling's most beautiful creations. I'm now a huge fan and can't wait to see what the future holds. I'm also hoping to see her live and plan on getting a hold of everything she has ever released. I regret only realising the existence of this incredible artist as late as I have.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 3 November 2011
Laura is a staggering talent who has already produced an impressive body of work at the age of 21. Her third album represents a major step up - she transcends her folk roots with a much more adventurous and tonally varied effort, from the jazzy opener The Muse to the awesome The Beast, one of the best rock songs in years. It's so exciting to think what she might do next.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
I remember at the time of her emergence, arriving with the sweetest of voices, with the most interesting of tales to tell, it seemed like a missed opportunity to call Laura Marling's debut anything but perfect. Of course, it wasn't. But this was an artist with lightyears ahead, harboring such visible talent that your average critic might've felt required to champion the album with a smattering of hyperbole, just to nudge forward the success she so promised. But to give Alas I Cannot Swim a lukewarm reception would have been a wise decision at the time. She had room to grow - she wasn't mistaken otherwise - and whilst we were impressed with her initial rise, most if not all of us waited with baited breath for whatever came next.

It seems odd, considering how much we expected of Laura Marling, that her inevitable growth has been even more colossal and rapid than ever imagined. She no longer recalls waking up on grubby benches after lengthy, reckless nights; she's forgotten about the boy who would tap at her window, too. This artist has evolved into a songwriter of almost intimidating confidence and quality. She has a restless, creative drive and this has never been as evident as on A Creature I Don't Know. Throughout, she's showcasing a previously withdrawn wealth of ideas; `The Beast', the record's obvious centerpiece, is powerful and to the point; opener `The Muse' has a almost jazz-like vibrancy as each backing member bounces their instrumental invention against one another and `My Friends' is rare in that lyrically, it sounds as if Marling is almost content - a contrast to the typically dark themes which dominate her previous full-length, I Speak Because I Can. So indeed, she continues to surprise the listener adding to an already extensive list of skills.

But in maturing and in experimenting, there's a recurring, dreadful sense that she's tossing back her initial appeal without so much as a second glance. We're offered small portions of the sweetness, the charm and the naivety, so prominent on early work, through `Sophia''s lulled, light-toned verses. `Night After Night', too - easily the most eye-opening song on the album - shows Marling at her most hurt and vulnerable. The point that's been driven home here, is that we've all heard the voice become more ragged and we've seen the content of her songs evolve into more profound beings and yet, with added invention and smart, show-off poise, there's a danger that we're becoming alienated.

No question: Laura Marling has a backbone, now. She's a universally applauded artist, with Brit Awards, Mercury Nominations and an adoring flock of fans to turn to if ever she requires validation. A Creature I Don't Know won't be remarked upon as her finest work in years to come, however. There's a balance required: This woman is becoming more ingenious by the day - for this she should, and will, be recognised for. But sitting atop of this album is the stark and frustrating fact that these songs, as commendable as they are, simply aren't as alluring as those on previous works. The balance will be reached and Marling will create her masterpiece - we should have little doubt of this. But A Creature I Don't Know, far from being a shortcoming, remains nothing but an additional testament to her incredible growth. It's a timely, perfectly-slotting piece in a trilogy of introductory albums, helping to announce this special artist and all of her frenzied, fantastic intentions for the future.
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on 8 January 2012
Hmmmm.....
was my first reaction on my first playing of Laura Marling's third studio album. I 'discovered' her about a year ago and quickly gobbled up Alas I cannot Swim and I Speak Because I Can. Her songs resonate with me and I'm in awe of the quality of her lyrics and melodies at such a young age. Those first two albums I can play over and over again, usually singing along while I'm driving! The songs are full of innocence, youth and vitality, but underneath it all is a dark (very dark) side thats stops her music from being twee.
The big difference between her earlier songs and this new album is that she's released her dark side - majorly. Sometimes the deeply insightful and often frankly disturbing lyrics take over and there is no real melody, and I needed a few listens for some of the songs to grow on me. As individual pieces they work fine, but somehow together as an album they don't gel especially well. Now however I do like them all except one. The one song I cannot bring myself to like no matter how many times I've listened to it is The Beast. To be honest - and I hate being negative about anything LM does as I think she's cracking - it sounds like a mess of mashed up tunes and rambling moaning. I understand that for a lot of people its the stand out track,and I'm not taking away the fact that its a brave choice to put on an album, but not for me I'm afraid.
The other songs are far more her style - or rather like her old style but just developed a bit which is only natural. Occasionally on this album she does this odd speak-singing thing that luckily for her she can pull off - but I can see a lot of people who like her melodic smooth voice feeling a bit short-changed.
For me her talent lies in her ability to combine wonderful heart-felt lyrics with soaring or jaunty melodies. As for the other tracks there are no stand-outs - they are all different, unique and good in different ways. Sophia is possibly my favourite as I think it's the best-crafted song on the album, but all of them are sung along to in the car like the first two albums - I just skip The Beast.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 5 April 2012
I'd never heard of Laura Marling until about August 2011 when I saw her do "New Romantic" on a BBC4 TV acoustic compilation show.
After hearing that I got everything I could and went to see her at the Manchester Cathedral gig in October 2011, the extra CD with this limited edition is from the York Minster date on that tour.
The regular album itself is full of deep/funny/dark lyrics and the music is folk-tinged with a bit of an American influence - she sounds a bit like Dylan on a few tracks in her delivery but unlike Mr Zimmerman she's got a wonderful voice.
I actually prefer her first album but all three albums are essential imho so it's splitting hairs.
The live album, as might be expected, features songs from all three albums so i'd suggest anyone who'd like to buy one Laura Marling album to see what the fuss is about could do a lot worse than this 2cd set.
The gig at Manchester Cathedral was the most wonderful gig i've been to, she's an amazing singer and songwriter.
Buy it, buy the 2CD set, do it now!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 8 October 2011
I've only just caught up with Laura Marling but she just has to be the finest young talent to emerge in this country (or anywhere else) for many many years. Sophisticated complex songwriting that's downright jawdropping and melodies that almost bring you to tears. This album and its predecessor bear comparison with the very best of PJ Harvey, Emmylou Harris or Gillian Welch. Breathtaking! I'm 56. How can a 20 year old have such an impact on me? But she does. Like no one else on the planet right now. I'd thought Gillian Welch had produced the album of the year but I was wrong. This is it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 12 September 2011
Laura Marling is an artist who is developing in capability and stature
at an alarming rate. From 2008's 'Alas I Cannot Swim', through 2010's
'I Speak Because I Can', we arrive at 'A Creature I Don't Know'. Three
albums in three years is hard work by any standard known to man or beast
and Ms Marling has gone from strength to strength in such a short time
that her growth as a writer and performer quite takes one's breath away.

This collection of ten new songs demonstrates a maturity and clarity of
purpose which puts a great many of her contemporaries in the shade.
There are two songs which appear early on in the recording which bare
comparison with 'Court and Spark' and 'The Hissing Of Summer Lawns' era
Joni Mitchell. As my favourite songwriter of all time (bar none!) this
is not an observation I make lightly. 'I Was Just A Card' and 'Don't Ask
Me' are both magnificent compositions. Among the finest I have heard in
the passing of ten years of full moons. Riches beyond measure in fact!

Ms Marling's grasp of complex melodic structure and plaintively personal
lyrical revelation has an immediacy and authenticity which gets inside
your head and your heart and just won't go away. Then there's the voice.
What a wonderful instrument it is! Limber, poignant, focussed and sure
in tone and pitch. A voice in a million! A voice to accompany us on life's
sweet and sour journey. A voice to stand shoulder to shoulder with the best.

The emotional ebb and flow of the aforementioned 'Don't Ask Me' is but one
of the many highlights which display Ms Marling's worth. Breathtaking stuff!
Not far behind, however, the stripped-down simplicity of the introduction
to 'The Beast' makes the very air stand still around it but opens up step
by stealthy step into a powerful invention of darkly disturbing grandeur.
The folksy ballad 'Rest In The Bed', too, stirs something deep in the soil;
a haunting arrangement saturated with otherworldly harmonies which sounds
as though it could have burst into the world fully-formed without Ms Marling
barely having to lift a finger. A fine marriage of imagination and tradition.

It falls to the magnificent 'Sophia', with its delicious near-hoedown twists
and turns and the thrilling high-flung vocals of final track 'All My Rage' to
convince us that Ms Marling's talent burns like a new star in the night sky.

My encounter with 'A Creature I Don't Know' left me feeling joyfully delirious!

Unmissable.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 22 September 2011
Laura Marling's first two albums marked her as one of the best new talents in British music. Her latest won't harm her reputation but won't greatly add to it either.

'A Creature I Don't Know' lacks the abundant charm and enthusiasm of 'Alas I Cannot Swim' and it lacks the dark, deep brooding longings of 'I Speak Because I Can'. But worst of all, too often it lacks the tunes. Too many of the tracks fail to cohere or gel. Much of the first half the album is interesting but, in the end, unsatisfying.

Marling experiments with an american accent (not wholly convincingly) on some of the tracks and the production is sometimes cranked up. The results sound a little like Catherine Feeny at times or even P J Harvey. It feels polished, but not authentically like Marling.

It is in the second half of the album that it suddenly picks up: 'My Friends', 'Sophia' and 'All My Rage' surge with the passion, conviction and simple songwriting ability that made Marling's first two albums such joys. It is as if she as rediscovered confidence in her own voice (both literally, because she sings in her own accent, and metaphorically, because these sound like her work, not the influences of others).

Marling was to have produced her third album at the end of 2010 but put it back, unsatisfied with what she had. That troubled birth shows in the end product, I suspect. Even off form, however, Laura Marling remains ceaselessly listenable to and one of our most promising talents.
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