Laura Marling
Once I Was an Eagle


3.7
great

Review

by Jacob R. STAFF
June 11th, 2013 | 60 replies | 7,424 views


Release Date: 05/27/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: "And damn all those hippies, who stomp empty-footed upon all that's good, all that's pure in the world"

English folk musician Laura Marling’s latest release is a living and breathing labyrinth. it’s acutely self-aware of how its ends meet in all the clever ways, like its signature melody that both begins and ends matters, its familiarity veiled behind a simple mirror image. The record begins with bursts of blissful ascension, the notes within lingering in the air long after they’ve been played-- so that when an eerily familiar succession of notes cracks through the surface in the final song’s cessation, it’s both comforting and meaningful. This main motif of Once I Was An Eagle not only paces the record, but at times, carries it entirely-- the most endearing tracks here carry it on their sleeves, and they aren’t even embarrassed of being a little derivative. The album's sewn together tightly by these recurring ideas, ready to fall into disarray the instant they’re dismantled.

And when the motifs fade, Laura Marling longs for them. The album becomes uncomfortably tense, lacking any sort of lasting appeal. Songs that have evident meaning, ballads like “When Were You Happy?” drift by like spiritless tumbleweeds, rumbling between the album’s pockets of vitality in aimless fashion. The song possesses some sense of dynamic, though, something “Undine” can’t even say for itself. The track only offers predictably moody plucked guitar, and maintains a specific degree of complacency throughout. The songs are resoundingly indifferent, and much of this has to do with the bare-bones instrumentation used within Once I Was An Eagle.

It reflects well on the musician, then, that most of the album’s flaws are with its accompanying music. Marling fares well throughout the release because she’s out in the open-- no longer hidden behind walls of varying sound. Once I Was An Eagle harnesses energy in the personal moments, the ones where Marling casually mutters witticisms about love. She’s the center of attention on the record, but never once does it feel like oversaturation. It’s because she works wonders with the spotlight, only to direct it towards the music when it has something just as important to say. It’s this give-and-take interplay that makes I Was An Eagle such an exciting record, that it’s as much about when Laura Marling doesn’t sing as it is about when she does. The silences are important-- vital, even, to the music’s sense of integrity.

The most telling moment of Once I Was An Eagle is the carefully planned transition between the album’s two most gargantuan songs. “Master Hunter,” steady and well-paced as it is, serves as a replication of the musician Laura Marling wants to be, the lyricist and stern lover she wishes she were. “I am the master hunter,” she affirms in its midsection, the track serving as some type of musical oath to which Marling holds herself. But then the coda comes to a complete close, and the instant its successor “Little Love Caster” begins, it’s clear she doesn’t believe herself at all. She wonders, amidst the poignant acoustic guitar and stop-start tempo, if it’s even worth it. All the efforts Laura Marling has made to conceal herself beneath this veil of independence have unraveled in an instant. And it all makes sense now-- the girl Marling references in the eponymous title track, the one she dismisses as “naive,” that falls “in love with the first man that she sees,” is none other than herself. This is the romantic catharsis of Laura Marling, with all the thorny baggage that comes with such a task. And it’s easily the most charming she’s ever been-- she's no master hunter, but she doesn't need to be.



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user ratings (97)
Chart.
3.7
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
robertsona
Staff Reviewer
June 11th 2013



15012 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

oh hey someone reviewed this. very good album

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
June 11th 2013



7325 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I don't really like Laura Marling, and I've liked her even less since I was besieged by emails from angry fans after I gave this record a 6/10 review in my local paper.

I just don't get the fuss. It all seems so... plain to me. The false American accent doesn't help.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
June 11th 2013



10061 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7 | Sound Off

*fist-bumps Alex*

And Ali, many people feel the same way as you. When I heard about Marling (very recently,) I heard the types of sentiments you have, so you certainly aren't in the minority. But man, was I surprised upon actually hearing this thing.

Digging: The Contortionist - Language

Maniac!
June 11th 2013



26250 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"The false American accent doesn't help."


LOL WHAT?


In any case, this isn't as strong as her other stuff, mostly because nothing really stands out. It works well as a concept album and everything flows well, but there are no "oh wow" moments like on her last album.

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
June 11th 2013



7325 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Hmmm, we obviously draw on different sources. She seems to get nothing but universal praise here in the UK, from the press especially.

Anyway, good review, needless to say.

klap
Staff Reviewer
June 11th 2013



10312 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3 | Sound Off

yeah critically she gets a lot of love

Digging: Literature - Chorus

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
June 11th 2013



15012 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

imo "where can i go?" is something of a standout

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
June 11th 2013



7325 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

"The false American accent doesn't help."


LOL WHAT?


Pretty self-explanatory. Master Hunter is particularly grating.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
June 11th 2013



10061 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7 | Sound Off

It seems that I like the songs you guys don't, and vice versa.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
June 11th 2013



15012 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

i also rly like little bird O_O

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
June 11th 2013



10061 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7 | Sound Off

WE AGREE ON THAT ONE! ^_^

mitch91
June 11th 2013



409 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I think this album is really brilliant, definitely her best.

I don't really see the problem with her 'fake' American accent: she's a performer and her songs have an element of story-telling to them; actors don't get criticised for putting accents on because it helps immerse you into the story. Also, she now lives in America but that's a moot point.

Digging: Frightened Rabbit - The Midnight Organ Fight

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
June 11th 2013



10061 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7 | Sound Off

The plot thickens.

tommygun
June 11th 2013



24490 Comments


good rev might check

Digging: Broods - Evergreen

Maniac!
June 11th 2013



26250 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

7000 comments, Omaha.


Fucking noob.

ILJ
June 11th 2013



6661 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

YES

love this album

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
June 11th 2013



10061 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7 | Sound Off

NOBODY GAWN STAHP ME~

avantgardening
June 11th 2013



27 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

HEY GUYS NOT EVERY REVIEW I DO IS A 4.5!!!!!!!~

Chrisjon89
June 11th 2013



3505 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good review. I love the album - just a bit too long but nothing major. I'm glad you didn't mention Joni Mitchell as a point of comparison as well, cos aside from the upright bass part on 'Little Birds' I really don't see it.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
June 11th 2013



10061 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7 | Sound Off

Thanks Chris! I tried to stay away from artist comparisons for this review, because the album's a more personal one for me. It says so much within itself, if you know what I mean.



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