This week’s Bucket Track List is another artist who is still alive (yay!) but more specifically, their third album. Laura Marling has been releasing music since she was sixteen, starting off with Noah And The Whale and making her way in the nu-folk scene with the likes of Mumford & Sons and Johnny Flynn. Her third solo album A Creature I Don’t Know came out in 2011 to rave reviews, which complimented Marling on her harnessing of the darker side of folk.
Whereas her first two albums showed the progression from girl to young woman, “Creature” was the perfect declaration of “This is who I am and this is what I can do”. The main attraction of this album for me was the seamless transitions from the sinister and menacing acoustic tracks such as Rest In The Bed or Night After Night to the huge folk blowouts like The Muse or Sophia. More than any of her other albums, in my opinion, “Creature” works cohesively to present a portrait of the singer; each song is personal without being clichéd, and the popular topics of love, loss, friendship and death are dealt with in a wholly original way.
My favourite track off this album is probably My Friends, which, like a plane taking off, starts slowly and gently, has a huge raucous crescendo in the middle, and slows down again at the end. This song sounds incredibly layered, falling just on the right side of chaotic, with a lot going on musically. Sandwiched between two of the slowest tracks on the album, Night After Night and Rest In The Bed, this song sticks out as an exuberant and apparently celebratory track for Marling, whose voice is crisp and clear in it, showing impressive range.
The complete tempo and mood change that occurs from My Friends to Rest In The Bed catches the listener off guard, as we move from an up-tempo dedication to her friends, to a minor-key call to her lover: “All you can do is promise my bold / That you won’t let me grow dark or cold / As long as we both shall live”. This unconventional love song is set against lullaby-esque music. As it gathers, the use of a banjo and the ethereal backing vocals create something otherworldly, with the angelic “ah’s” perfectly creating the call of the “sirens” she promises will come. This complete U-turn in terms of style and song is just one reason that this album works so well. It serves to highlight the breadth of what Marling manages to achieve in the space of ten tracks, as she takes us from jazz-folk to acoustic to the folk-rock in the monster of a song that is The Beast.
Another reason is the mere calibre of her lyrics and the perfect arrangement of the music, which is excellently produced through the album, despite being recorded (for the most part) live. Marling often describes herself as a poet with writer’s block rather a musician, and this is evident in “Creature”, which is actually based around a poem of Marling’s creation: The Beast Was A Creature I Did Not Know in which a woman falls in love with a beast and has its child before it leaves her. This impressive concept shapes the album in all the right ways, giving it emotional depth and artistic prowess.
All in all, although Marling has five impressive albums under her belt while still in her twenties, A Creature I Don’t Know stands out as a triumph of musicianship, lyrical ability and overall emotional. If you have never listened to it before, I highly recommend it, as in some ways it’s more than just an album, but is a piece of art within itself, and is definitely one to be listened to before you die.