Incest. When a friend of mine was trying to convince me at BBQ #19374 of last week’s 'ominous-for-Glastonbury' heatwave that it should be legal, I never thought I’d be taking her side, in the public domain no less. But in order to marry Laura Marling’s strikingly gorgeous voice, this is an unfortunate but necessary pre-requisite.
For the past two months, since discovering Laura’s precocious debut LP Alas, I Cannot Swim, her voice has been that of the cynical, pessimistic and yet infinitely wise and compassionate big sister I have been missing all these years. The fact that she is 4 years my junior is a testament to the power of her bewitching voice, which manages to straddle Joni Mitchell and the anti-folk of Diane Cluck.
With the full use of her excellent vocal range, world-weary acceptance somehow is somehow transformed into life affirming arm-round-your-shoulder realism in the chorus of album opener Ghosts - "# Lover, please do not fall to your knees/It’s not like I believe in everlasting love #". One of her most effective songwriting idiosyncrasies is also on show here - the repetition of the word ‘crying’, stretching out a line in the second verse, gives the song lift and added poignancy.
Marling finds her zenith on My Manic & I, a song that admirably deals with the difficult subject of mental illness, in a truly trad-folk styling. Her style lends the perfect weight and, well, mania needed, until the song almost reaches breaking point before her gently soothing line "# birds were singing to calm us down #" lets the steam out beautifully and stops things getting a little bit too uncomfortable.
The fact that she has the ability to utilize her voice in many different styles is perhaps what makes it seem wise beyond its years. From the summery pop of Cross Your Fingers, the sea shanty interlude of Crawled Into The Sea to her deadpan delivery in Mystery Jets’ Young Love, it becomes apparent that Marling could take her voice in any number of directions in years to come.
While she may not have written Blue for the 21st century, there is no doubting that Marling’s is one of the most refreshing and interesting female voices to come out of the UK in the 21st Century, and one which is increasingly relevant in an era dominated by North American songwriters, (Regina Spektor, Feist, Cat Power, the list goes on). So unfortunately, I have to be as wrong as a Hereford farmer and marry that voice.
words: Arj Singh
Laura Marling releases Cross Your Fingers on June 2nd. She plays at Zanzibar in Liverpool on May 27th, opening for Adem, and embarks on a short UK tour of churches in June before playing at Glastonbury on June 29th.