Review: Laura Marling – Once I Was An Eagle

Laura Marling continues to cement her reputation for beautiful songwriting, which she effortlessly interweaves with lyrics touching on melancholy in 'Once I was an Eagle'. Detatched, yet earnest, it's a sublime example of a folk album.

I am currently wearing my Laura Marling t-shirt. I felt this important to admit – to establish from the off, if you will, that this review will not be an entirely (or remotely) objective affair. But I will try my hardest. Now I’ve got that off my chest (not literally, the shirt’s still on) we can begin.

Since releasing her first album in 2008 at the age of 18, Marling’s precociously insightful music has earned her a steadily growing fanbase. Each album released has shown a beautiful inherent maturity, managing to retain a distinct style whilst still pushing progressively forward.

Once I Was an Eagle, Marling’s fourth album, is even more skilful, coherent and – well – classy, than the three that came before it. It’s a fluid, accomplished and spellbinding album in fact, that has a profound sense both of detachment, and fearlessly honest self-exploration. Each song, most noticeably the opening four, melts seamlessly into the next, with the exception of the interlude that separates the two halves of the album. Yes, there’s an interlude, I told you it was classy.


Opening track, 'Take The Night Off', shows just how much Marling’s vibrato has improved, as her voice soars and glides effortless between octaves. Try singing along, and you will realise quite how extraordinary her range is. I learned the hard way.

'I Was An Eagle', the track on which the album title was of course based, defies the sacharine direction that a lot of folk music seems to be heading in. “I will not be a victim of circumstance” she insists, “Changes, circumstance, or any man who could get his dirty little hands on me.”

As she proceeds into glorious wailings of falsetto, the comparisons with Joni Mitchell are unavoidable. Like Mitchell, whom she has professed in several interviews to have grown up listening to, Marling follows no rules with regards to melody.

It’s a fluid, accomplished and spellbinding album in fact, that has a profound sense both of detachment, and fearlessly honest self-exploration.

In fact, when she does attempt to adhere to a more straightforward melody, in ‘Once’, for example, it seems almost wrong. Although the jarring ‘80s synth and drumbeat that kick in half way through that song don’t exactly help either.

'Master Hunter', the fifth track on the album, toys with a country style before heading in a more hauntingly sinister direction, as Marling sings along to an upbeat melody - “I nearly put a bullet in my brain when the rhythm took me in… Wrestling with the rope from darkness is no fucking life that I would choose.” And the darkness continues right up to the end, as she almost speaks the refrain in the final track "You weren't my curse. Thank you naivety for failing me again" as if so taken with her own disdain that retaining a tune pales into insignificance.

Once I Was An Eagle is a darker, more complex album than the three that came before it, and, as is typical of Marling, leaves you pondering its aloofness. It is difficult to tell how much of Marling herself can be salvaged from the beautiful but impenetrable lyrics. But this doesn't matter, it’s moving enough left as a beautiful abstract. A wonderful fourth album that surely cements Marling’s future status as folk legend.

Oh, and she was born in 1990. I’ll just let that sink in.

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