Traversing the visceral terrain of anger, pain and the understanding allowed by hindsight, Once I Was An Eagle is stunning.

Laura Marling writes songs with a gravitas that’s not often present in albums by 23-year-olds. For Once I Was An Eagle she worked again with prolific producer/mixer Ethan Johns, who worked on her last two records (as well as Ryan Adams’ Heartbreaker), and album four captures her in an even more determined place. On the almost-title track she opines “I will not be a victim of romance/I will not be a victim of circumstance,” later musing, “When we were in love/If we were/I was an eagle/And you were a dove.” The cadence and beats of the lyrics carry as much weight as the words themselves and when she sings “You asked me blind once/If I was a child once/and I said I’m really not sure,” it’s deft and damning all at once.

Marling’s songs are poems that she has said mostly arrive fully formed, and each song sounds complete. The songs ebb and flow, seamlessly blending into each other, a silken stream that doesn’t seem to break. As a result, the first five songs of the album are an immersive 20 minutes and it’s near impossible to skip through any of it. ‘The Devil’s Resting Place’ and ‘Undine’ circle around the acoustic folk roots of her debut, but from above, with a huskier tone and even deeper depth of observation. It’s the genre-traversing details that set the album apart from most others heard this year – the subtle alt-country organ on ‘Where Can I Go’ and electric guitar that echoes the tone of Abbey Road-era Beatles on ‘When Were You Happy’.

4.5/5 stars


Once I Was An Eagle is out now through Virgin.

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