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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 in the UK as Peyton Manning is at the Indianapolis Colts.

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.
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on April 12, 2010
...Upon first listening to it, I assumed that this amazing singer and songwriter gracing my ears must be at least in her late 20s with a wealth of music and experience behind her. Of course, I was wrong. Just like any music, hers is difficult to explain. I would describe it as closer to British folk, but definitely influenced by American country and folk music. Her voice has an old and wise quality to it, but sometimes her youth reveals itself. The melodies are driven by her guitar playing and great vocal lines, but are sometimes accompanied by simple percussion, violin, and a male back-up singer. However, just because the music is simple, don't let it fool you. Her lyrics are beautiful and deep with meaning; something to be appreciated in the newer folk scene. I also enjoy that (at least from what I can tell from the music videos I've watched) she doesn't seem to be self-obsessed pop star. She has an old-fashioned beauty that comes through her music and lyrics...

Read the rest at [...]
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on September 11, 2010
I got the first Laura Marling cd after hearing one of her songs on NPR. While I really liked that cd, this second cd is much much better. She has an amazingly rich voice which gives power to all of these songs. I love the way this album heads to the folk tradition more strongly than her last album.

For me, lyrics are as important as the melody, and Laura's crafted poetry in these songs. I would highly recommend this cd to anyone who's into strong female voices (such as Joni Mitchell, Ani Difranco, Regina Spektor).
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on September 7, 2010
I'm surprised the few reviews of this album are so divided; I think most of it is really excellent. Sure, there are some clear favorites - "Rambling Man" is absolutely stunning - and I do wish a few of the songs had that same intensity. But still, the album works as a whole and is very good even in its quieter moments. Nicely done.
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on April 2, 2011
This sophomore album shows a great deal of musical maturation since her first album (which I found to be full of meandering, undeveloped, and almost monotonous songs--sorry if you liked it). This is almost the opposite. I'm not sure how much of this bears the influence of her producer, Ethan Johns, but Marling is going to be a force to contend with in the future if she was only 20 when she wrote this album. The melodies are strong and complex, and the instrumentation is multi-layered and rich. The blend of English and American folk roots is elegant, and as someone else said, you can hear on this album how much she and Marcus Mumford come from the same family, although her music is certainly distinct. Like Mumford's songwriting, there's no sign of the heavy imitation that you often hear from songwriters that young--seems to be a sign of greatness to come. A truly solid album that will be around for a long time.
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on January 4, 2013
I think this is my favorite Laura Marling record. Im a big Mumford and Sons fan and recommend those fans to her music
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on November 26, 2010
Marling follows up her first album with this darker, more mature release. She comes out swinging with the first song on the album, Devil's Spoke, and she doesn't let up. You can definitely hear the growth in song writing compared to "Alas I Cannot Swim." I think paring up with Mumford and Sons to back her up helped add some depth to her songs. I cannot get enough of this album and see it being a favorite for a long time.
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on November 5, 2010
Amazing talent in this young woman. You will think at times your listening to Joan Baez. Buy this cd. Check out her website to see video's of her performance in India with Mumford & Sons.
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on May 11, 2010
I fell in love with Laura's music recently and even more recently saw her in concert. She is amazing, simply stated. The eu DVD plays on bluray dvd players and is a fun special treat.
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on July 13, 2012
This lady is very impressive, writes her own stuff and it is cerebral as well. Great album, best I have heard for ages. I have since bought entire back catalogue. Highly recommended.
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