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Laura Marling emerges with her fourth record, Once I Was An Eagle: an album so expansive and thrilling it’s no wonder she can’t shrug off comparisons to Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan even at the ripe age of 23. If you’re already fans of these two legends, don’t pass on this record thinking you’ve heard it all before. Eagle destroys your expectations of contemporary folk while completely reinvigorating the dying art of an album unraveling a bigger story track by track.
The record is akin to a mystifying play. A story’s zigzagging journey of a protagonist on a road littered with heartbreak and revelation take the form of the many criss-crossing wind, string, and rhythm parts erupting and fading perfectly in each track. I’ve never heard a set of songs so rich that it evoked more than just sound. At times, the music was swimming in color, lashing in movement, and enveloping in atmosphere. It’s no wonder Noisey’s collaborative short film with Marling (see below) featuring songs from the record was right on the money.
Like the video, Eagle starts off with a five-song epic where “Take The Night Off,” “I Was An Eagle,” “You Know,” “Breathe,” and, “Master Hunter,” bleed into each other to set up the captivating rise and fall story of its narrator. Within these tracks, Marling’s masterful picking and heavy voice are married into a seemingly fantastical, amalgamative orchestra that stretches from classical strings to tribal drums.

Other orchestral gems of the record like, “The Devil’s Resting Place,” and, “Where Can I Go?” carry the high tempo and energy set up by the epic beginning; “Once,” and, “Little Bird,” slower, more minimalist Marling tracks (akin to her past material) round out an imaginative 16-track tale. With each song so intertwined, Eagle shines the brightest when played as a whole. Like a short book recommended by a friend or sitting down for a sequel to a favorite movie, this record is worth the expended effort to absorb all at once. Make some tea during a quiet evening, walk alone in the rain: do whatever you need to set aside a full listen alone with Once I Was An Eagle in its entirety. It will leave you breathless.
Within a relatively short amount of time and with only little bursts of her enormous potential, Laura Marling’s Once I Was An Eagle has already set her light-years ahead of almost every guitar-toting singer-songwriter ever. With an ear for crafting intelligent, imaginatively-structured music amassed under the smooth lyrics of a natural storyteller, Marling is an artist you absolutely must take note of.


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