Laura Marling’s Poetic “Creature”

Courtesy of WayOutWest,Virgin

Soft-spoken and demure, Laura Marling is an enchanting English Rose. But the shrinking violet she comes across to be in real life is a far cry from the soulful and moving vocals Marling delivers in her albums.

Her debut album, “Alas, I Cannot Swim” was released in 2008 when she was just 17 years old. Her 2010 release, “I Speak Because I Can” received rave reviews in England, peaking at number four on the U.K. Album Charts.

Now, we get to hear another side of Laura Marling’s musicality with her new album “A Creature I Don’t Know.” The success of her previous two albums has given her the confidence to experiment with different genres; she is shifting gears from her native folk music to a more rock ‘n’ roll sound. “A Creature I Don’t Know” sees the introduction of electric guitars and faster beats to her normally soft music style.

“The Muse” is the opening track of the album and talks about the volatile relationship between an artist and his or her “muse.” This song could easily fit as a reincarnation of one of Bob Dylan’s numbers in terms of his rougher-edge style of singing. “I Was Just A Card” is another of Marling’s edgier songs, using prominent and strong drumbeats with wind instruments at the background.

One of the strongest songs on the album track has to be “Don’t Ask Me Why.” From an otherwise quiet person, this song seems to be aimed solely toward her small but ardent fanbase. “I don’t ask for love and I don’t beg for money” is the most direct she gets before sympathizing with “Those of us who are lost and low.” Many times throughout the course of the song, she resembles folk-queen Joni Mitchell with her strong voice and guitar solos.

At the age of 21, Laura Marling is a self-confessed observer of life and a feminist at heart. This is where her music speaks to her. On this album alone she has two songs, “Salinas” and “Sophia,” that are inspired by the women around her. “Salinas” is a song about a place where “women go forever and they never ever stop to ask why.” The ancient goddess of wisdom and God’s other-half inspires “Sophia” in which she serenades about how every human is fated to make mistakes and in the end how the “higher woman” alone helps us atone.

“A Creature I Don’t Know” crescendos and reaches its zenith with its fifth track, “The Beast.” This is a really dark song about how “Calling Sophia, the goddess of power” gives this person strength to break away from “the pull on my throat” and choose “laying down with the beast” instead. It is filled with electric guitar and showcases the rock ‘n’ roll feel she was aiming for. “The Beast” is definitely a metaphor, but the great thing about her lyrics is that she lets the listener use their own imagination to perceive what it stands for.

Her previous albums each had a song about tragic and forbidden love. In “I Speak Because I Can,” she gave us “What He Wrote” about wartime love letters. And in this album, “Night After Night” fits that mould with precision. It is a haunting yet bewitching track with just vocals and accompanying guitar, talking about “A tempting communion, [it’s] a fate foretold” where “he longs for a woman who will conquer his lust.”

The next few songs, “My Friends” and “Rest in Bed” are faster and lighter but if close attention is paid to the lyrics, they still hold the slight melancholy characterized in all her songs. She has definitely matured as a writer; her songs have become stronger and more poetic, but she still firmly believes in not editing lyrics.

The last song on the album is “All My Rage,” and she changes direction once again. This time, she goes with a more bluegrass feel with accompanying banjo, flute and vocals, ending the album on a high note.

“A Creature I Don’t Know” boasts many different genres but at the core it still remains true to the artist and is her best album so far. Laura Marling is definitely taking a risk with this album, but in the end, it is positively worth it. She keeps her head down and just loves creating songs with messages and characters, and we love her for that. As for the larger part of the world that are still unfamiliar with who she is, they would do well to spend time listening to her songs. Like Laura herself sings in “Salinas,” “There are no answers, they are found.”

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars