Key Tracks: “Breathe,” “Saved These Words”
British singer-songwriter Laura Marling has been receiving constant praise for her work, including immediate approval of her fourth album, “Once I Was An Eagle.” The album does it’s job – it is an honest and effective folk album. But it does not start off that way. The first three tracks, “Take the Night Off,” “I Was An Eagle,” and “You Know,” are fairly tepid folk songs, with uninspiring lyrics and Marling’s vocals sounding phoned in. It is not until the fourth song, “Breathe,” that the album’s diverse originality starts to seep in. The song is a beautiful and building work of emotion. After “Breathe,” the album opens up into a mix of tracks with very diverse origins. Some have fast-paced with booming percussion, some are softer and more traditional of a singer-songwriter. Most songs feature just Marling and a slight instrument or two in the background. The album, as a whole, flows well in its transitions between different styles.
Once the album expands, there is a sense that Marling puts all the elements of herself into the record, exampled in the different styles. The songs have consistently great rhythms, no matter the volume or tempo. Marling deals with some tough thematic material in her lyrics, typical of a successful folk record. The album is long, stretching just over an hour, and it starts to feel tedious during the decrescendo towards the end. But the album’s final song, “Saved These Words,” is very reminiscent of “Breathe” in that it is a building song, a tough and perfect finale to the album.
Musically, the transitions between different styles keep it interesting, tough to accomplish for a folk singer. Marling’s guitar rhythms are often catchy and interesting, some less stale than others. Although the album starts slow, it turns into another near-perfect album for the acclaimed singer.