Shuffling Subtly to Stardom: Laura Marling, I Speak Because I Can

It’s not too regular an occurrence in between long players one and two for acoustic dwindlers to musically mature around thirty years and dye scruffy bobs dark, whilst vocal chords suddenly swoop down to a bruised baritone. Following the flimsy haunts of Alas, I Cannot Swim and perpetual affiliations with fellow Richmond rich kid folk barrel scrapers, there was a time when Laura Marling was meekly pleasant at best, whilst wistfully swigging from a Shiraz bottle (or fortified rum in the case of the sea shanty stomp of Devil's Spoke). Infuriating fiddles are largely absent from the swelling cells of I Speak Because I Can, a record that owes more to Neil Young’s harmoniously fruitful Harvest and Sarah McLachlan’s Surfacing than the banal banjos of Mumford & Sons. Counterfeit dusty country twangs reverberate somewhat strangely given her humble Hampshire beginnings and Fleet Foxes’ folk overhaul of yesteryear seemingly resonates dotingly within the bare oak panelling of Marling’s sublimely simplistic chansons. Yet Goodbye England (Covered In Snow) soundtracks exquisitely and quite unmistakably the snowy British Sundays of late that have plagued airline schedules and endeared starry-eyed sweet sixteens in equal measure. Opener Devil’s Spoke dangles dangerously over a mire of KT Tunstall tripe, before being salvaged by what would be the quintessential and possibly only cross-pollination between Joanna Newsom’s tamer moments and a whimsical Celticism, whilst Rambling Man could only fall more fittingly into Radio 2 play lists were it endowed with a Wogan voiceover. Where Patrick Wolf sits and swings in the Magic Position of the major key, Marling triumphs most incandescently in the minor, as Alpha Swallows ebbs and rumbles, before finally gushingly rupturing with hymnal harmonies, whilst What He Wrote, plucked from Medieval meadows reeks of a nostalgic heartbreak only experienced through the medium of BBC period drama. Darkness Descends shimmers with a throwback ABBA-esque gloss, all the while snatching strawberries from forgotten fields of rejuvenation, if not innovation before the record’s title-track hums with a husky PJ Harvey wisp, fading in a relative fanfare set against previous miserabilist meanderings. Fragile, fascinating and fabulously imperfect Marling’s become rather relevant all of a sudden and following her separation from Noah & the Whale main man Charlie Fink, whilst his latest makes him bawl, Marling's holding her head higher than ever, holding her heart in her hands as she sails above an abyss of bramble.