So here is the last of the Mercury Music prize reviews from me, and the last one I have to review is Laura Marling and her fourth album, Once I Was An Eagle. Out of all of the Mercury nominations, this has been the one I have been most interested in listening to - apart from The Next Day, by Mr Bowie (and cleverly linked here) - as I have heard her stuff before and I'm interested to see if there has been any progression in her work. Brief background to this release; even before the release and promotion of her third album 'A Creature I Don't Know' Ms Marling was playing songs which would form part of this album. She has stated that this is her plainest work to date that the album follows a central figure, who angrily shuns naïvety and love, and over the course of the album regains a "second naïvety". So I guess you could call this prog-folk for its story telling perspective. Also, this is the third of her albums to be nominated for the prize and she is the second most nominated act not to win the award (only Radiohead have had more nominations and not won). So how does this latest offering from the London based folk heroin rate in the greater scheme of things.
Musically this seems to take a lot of theme from native American music, as well as some dark piece of the soul for some of these themes and lyrics are truly disturbing place. Going through this album, there is a journey going on and it also from self destruction to redemption. Pieces such as "Devil's Resting Place", "I Was An Eagle" and "Where I Can Go?" showcases the way that Ms Marling has progressed as a musician and song writer as well. Her work is vastly improved with each album, and this one feels very personal and engaging.
This reminds me a lot of a minimalist version of 'The Hazards Of Love' by The Decembrists - it keeps going back to musical themes and has the listener hypnotized with the story and inner workings of the piece. This is a beautiful album, if anything I can see why it has been commented that it could have lost a few tracks, but that is a minor point. Overall, this is a greatly successful album and one that I feel is actually worthy of the praise that is being thrown at its feet; but because of that it is obvious that it will probably not win the overall prize. But for me, it has won my heart and my mind.
8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart
You can purchase the album from Amazon here
You can visit the Laura Marling website here
You can listen to this album on Spotify here
Here is a live performance from a radio session of "I Was An Eagle and You Know"