Sound: Critically lauded from all angles, it is easy to approach this album with a great deal of expectation. This is why I suppose many people will be disappointed initially with this album. The more obvious hooks and melodies of Marling's excellent debut 'Alas, I Cannot Swim' are largely absent. By contrast, 'I Speak Because I Can' takes several listens until its beauty and brilliance dawns on you.
'Devil's Spoke', the opening track, is one of the stand-out tracks here, largely because it is perhaps the only one with any catchy element to it; dark guitar melodies accompanied by a frantic banjo make this the one instant hit.
'Rambling Man' is another highlight, living up its title, it rolls along pleasantly before the more sombre 'Blackberry Stone' sets in, allowing Marling to display the more melancholy side to her impeccable voice. 'Goodbye England' is sweet and serene, whilst 'Hope in the Air' is borderline epic.
The album's conclusion, the title track, opens with a delicate, almost haunting guitar line before evolving into something more grand, featuring more excellent singing, Marling displaying her adeptness in both higher and lower frequencies. // 8
Lyrics: It is incredible how lyrics can be so precise, so honest, in some cases even colloquial, yet so poetic and open to interpretation at the same time. Marling's lyrics are exactly this; personal, yet as a listener it is easy to relate. The completely under-produced vocal delivery accents this perfectly, it is essentially the sound of realism. The lyrics are generally wistful and at times even resentful as in the title track; "I speak because I can, to anyone I trust enough to listen, you speak because you can to anyone who'll hear what you say."
"What He Wrote" is supposedly lyrically based around letters from a WW2 soldier to his love back home, an interesting and ultimately successful experiment, whilst Marling seems to reference the words of her ex-lover Charlie Fink of Noah & The Whale in 'Blackberry Stone' "I'd be sad that I never held your hand as you were lowered, but I'd understand that I would never let you go."
Songwriting is without doubt Laura Marling's strength, and it is perhaps a wonderful coincidence that her beautiful voice is entirely suited to her words. // 9
Overall Impression: Whilst it is easy to get bogged down in how fantastic Marling's lyrics and singing are it is also worth noting that she is without doubt a skilled guitarist. Marling is not someone who has simply picked up a guitar because they need music for their lyrics, she has put in the hours to work on her music and in most cases create completely unconventional musical sequences, which again work to surprisingly great effect. This has been evident in both albums she has released thus far.
The songs here appear to be far more musing and wistful in approach when compared with her debut though, and this truly sets Marling apart not only from other female singer-songwriters, but any songwriters. Most songwriters would spend an entire career attempting to create an album this thoughtful, honest and mature. Marling, at the age of 20, has achieved this remarkable feat, completely belying her years. The mark has well and truly been set here, and it is scary to think that Marling still has several more albums ahead of her. She could easily become not only the star of her generation, but of any generation. // 9