Once I Was An Eagle
May 24, 2013 Web Exclusive
As a songwriter, Laura Marling has always gone toe-to-toe with her womanhood and its role in her relationships. Her latest effort, Once I Was An Eagle, sees her address this from two distinct aspects—first as a woman fractured and broken, later, with a confidence and conviction rebuilt.
This distinction is certainly made clear—the two sides of the record conveniently separated by the brief, submerged, gramophone loop, "Interlude." The first seven songs are perhaps the darkest of the 23-year-old songstress' career thus far, as she tells of a descent into melancholia: waving goodbye to blissful naïveté on "You Know" ("If we were a child then/We are children no more"), while withdrawing into a state of emotional quarantine on "Master Hunter" ("I am a master hunter/I cured my skin so nothing gets in"). Musically, these songs are marked by their elision of the gentle folk for which Marling has found renown and a new Far Eastern palette—flashes of sitar, mystic drones, and the percussive sound of bongos are rife throughout.
Following the break, Marling finds self-assurance once more—she's not so much rising like the phoenix, rather deriving hard truth from difficult experiences. The dark, Eastern mysticism of the first half has been replaced by a fuller, more optimistic folk-rock sound, one populated with homely Hammond organs, crisp lead guitars, and more assertive percussion. Against this backing, Marling delights in the promise of untapped potential in "Where Can I Go?" and accepts this fought-for truth on "Once."
Once I Was An Eagle is Marling's most fully-realized release yet, a quasi-conceptual record that traces a path from naivety through harsh experience and eventually to consequent enlightenment. The central tenets of Marling's musical style have undergone no great metamorphosis, but one thing's still for sure: Gender politics have never been so elegant. (www.lauramarling.com)
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