Cultivating great musical taste

Laura Marling Once I was an Eagle Review

It has taken me a few days to actually sit down and write a review of Once I was an Eagle. I bought it the day it came out and listened to it in the car on the way home. I’m not going to lie, at first I was disappointed but now I think it is a beautiful album of the same standard as A Creature I Don’t Know.

I remembered that Laura Marling’s music was made to be more personal, that playing it in a car was not the right atmosphere for it, so then I decided it must be a headphone album.

By this I mean that there are some things you can only truly appreciate via headphones. Songs can be layered and their true beauty can’t always be heard in a car or on a CD player, headphones are the only medium through which this can be heard.  If there is anything we know about Laura Marling it is that her music is layered and understated and you never hear everything the first time round.

So I put the album onto my phone and lo and behold! Once I was an Eagle is a headphone album.

Contrary to my first impression it is not dreary, it is typical Laura Marling.  The beauty is not all in her voice, it is the lyrics and the guitar and the violins and cello and whatever else she has included in her fourth studio album.

The opening track, Take the Night Off, is slow to start with and it’s very stripped back, the main focus is on her voice and those wonderful lyrics that she is always able to put on paper. It is a gentle reminder of how talented this woman is, her voice is so different from anyone else out there. It is also a layered song; even now I’m hearing things I haven’t heard before. As it carries on the momentum is building slowly and before you realise it it’s full of all these wonderful sounds, but the vocals are still the star and the entire track flows seamlessly into second track I was an Eagle. 

The quintessential Laura Marling quirks are scattered throughout the entire album and she’s even added some more. There’s a brilliant moment in Breathe when she is using her voice as the instrument. She is dueting with the cello whilst singing the word ‘breathe’ and it is beautiful; it’s my favourite moment of the entire album.

A lot of the tracks are ones that build up throughout their duration and these are always her best songs. If you think back through her back catalogue it is tracks like Alpha Shallows and Devil’s Spoke that remain some of her best material, and there’s a fair amount of those on here.

However, on this album the standout track is not Master Hunter or Once or Where Can I Go? it’s Devil’s Resting Place which is highly energetic from the get go. It’s the sort of song that makes you shiver because it’s so good, the lyrics are haunting and there’s a bitterness in the way they are delivered. The melody is catchy and if you don’t know the words you can just hum along and when the chorus starts there’s a thrill of excitement because the understated instruments come to the fore and creates a cacophony of noise that is so close to perfection.

Any fan of Laura Marling will not be disappointed by this offering, she remains on top form with this album and if on first listen you don’t get it then make sure you listen to it again, it’s worth a second chance. It’s a grower, but it grows into greatness.


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