As any reader of this site will observe, I’ve been on a huge “influences” kick lately — basically allotting value per a system similar to the ethic given in Cadence Weapon’s slogan that in good music “The influences peel off like stickers on a notebook.” Well, it’s the really good music that makes us forget about all that scientific crap.
I was introduced to Laura Marling the British singer/songwriter by way of KEXP, an entity on Facebook I’m very glad to have started following, and it’s funny, because her music is absolutely PERFECT for that semi-acoustic, radio/studio environment. The Seattle station has featured Real Estate and Band of Horses as their recent guests, among many others, certain gently melodic pop/folk or twee pop outfits whose style might be plangent but languid. Marling makes a fine female counterpoint within this very genus, meanwhile materializing as a much needed and appreciated, and more inspired, alternative to PJ Harvey in the way of British folk. Her guitar and bass tones, though soft, resonate strikingly even in digital sound, while at the same time almost always seeming to differ in timbre from the tones on the given song prior.
After serene but unremarkable album opener “Soothing,” “The Valley” comes in almost rashly original, skating along on an unorthodox meter and slew of indescribable, minor chord changes. “Wild Fire” brings us the emotive, rhythmically loose signature singing style of hers and to be honest, I chose not to listen to it a second time for this very reason (having heard it on KEXP), but “Don’t Pass Me By” quickly diminished my concern that the album would fall into monotony. Unlike its predecessor on Semper Femina, “Don’t Pass My By” is more rock than it is folk, and along with how it thus constructs a nice varied eclecticism within the LP, this fact is also pleasing since there’s a Beatles song “Don’t Pass Me By,” which carries roughly the same tempo, for that matter.
Then also with “Along This Way,” “fresh” does not even do justice to the sheer mass of guitar plurality employed here — these are gentle sounds, but the way they mesh and interact makes for a listen that’s deep and absorptive. Marling’s voice is beautiful here, resting on the mix sort of like syrup on pancakes. Her lyrics are general and universal, but genuine — perfect pop lyrics, in other words.
This, then, brings up an interesting point about what music is today in our era of the Internet and very ready acquisition of it. Laura Marling, I think, took a little time before she engrossed me. She definitely comes across as demure — this music is about as punk as a military uniform, but every bit as illustrative of discipline and skill, as well, something very refreshing after viewing those Pitchfork darlings like American Football who seem to appeal for their very inability to do something the average Shmoe couldn’t do. Well, it’s arguable that as we’re wedged in this age of technology, music which is “niche” is no longer valuable — how would it even be possible for us to have countercultures these days? In this way, it’s to Laura Marlin’s undoubted credit that she really brandishes a pop APPEAL — the songs have ebbs and climaxes, they convey something moral, albeit implicitly moral, not attempting to alienate or make waves, but rather completely content in their own ingenious DNA. “The Valley” and “Wild Once” remind me of Wilco’s “Muzzle of Bees,” a song I’m overly fond of, and… wow, you can tell you’ve heard great music when you don’t even hate those stupid Spotify commercials that come on.