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Laura Marling Sings Because She Can

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Gentlemen prefer blondes, but sorrow, it turns out, likes a brunette. The fetching young English folkie Laura Marling was 17 and bottle-blonde when she recorded her Mercury Prize-nominated first album, Alas I Cannot Swim. She was a pixie-ish little thing, and critics, even while praising her to the skies (if not, alas, to a Mercury win), fixated on her youth and her boyfriend. The English press is still parsing the decline of that previous relationship (with former bandmate Charlie Fink of Noah and the Whale) and the dawn of a new one (with Marcus Mumford of the rival neo-folk band Mumford & Sons) with gossipy fervor. The nice thing about listening to Laura Marling on this side of the water is that you can safely ignore all that. The new Marling—whose sophomore effort, I Speak Because I Can, is out in the U.S. today—is darker in both tresses and verses. Her songs are still whisper-sung, but the sunny lilt that lit up even the bleakest parts of Alas I Cannot Swim has been replaced by a moodier twang. It’s only made them better. The spiky wit is intact, and revels in eleventh-hour swerves: “I wrote an epic letter to you,” she sings to a faithless suitor. “And it’s 22 pages front and back, but it’s too good to be used.” Girl power without the shout—a sentiment that plenty of stylish girls, and maybe a show-scorer or two, will sympathize with. I can’t help but notice Marling has journeyed, in title at least, from Cannot to Can. Yes, she can!

Photo: Deirdre O’Callagan

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Dept. of Culture