16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
I Speak Because I Can,
This review is from: I Speak Because I Can (Eco-pack) (Audio CD)
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.