Laura Marling- Master Hunter- Track Review


Laura Marling




Master Hunter



Track Review:












Predicating the future impact of her fourth album, arrives a reliably taut and fascinating '... Eagle' flight.







'Master Hunter'

is available via:




A brief dedication will be given, once more, to the inter-changing role...


of the female solo artist, in the 21st century. For every 'new' talent that arrives on the scene, a cursory, and then more in-depth summation is undertaken. The eager Jane Doe, is subjected to a minefield of infinite regression, poor wordplay, and lazy comparisons. If the subject is gorgeous, more often than not, a lot of focus is given to that. If the music is similarly breathtaking, then a semblance of hysteria is elicited. Many new artists have arrived on the scene, for which one thing has been scrutinised and highlighted the most: the voice. Whether the instrument is generic, amazing, flawed or unexpected, an uneven weight does seem to be levied towards it. In spite of the fact that the male market but have a larger subscription of solo artists, it is the female quarters that garner the most fervent- and divisive- press. Adele has probably been celebrated the most, in recent years, and has been championed for her wide-ranging and emotive power. Previously, the likes of Amy Winehouse were seen as the forerunners of the female voice, and aside from media darlings and controversial heroines, there is little curiosity elsewhere. There are a great many new female solo artists, but few that you are actually enraptured by. Aside from vocal prowess, as much as anything, there appears to be little in the way of an ear for composition, a literary and intelligent mind, and an intriguing and original personality. Many solo stars; with a shocking amount named Lucy Rose, are at the forefront of a vanguard of mechanical slurry. The aesthetic is the same: cutesy smiles, casual '70s fashion, and an underlying sexiness, combined with a somewhat-twee and unspectacular voice. I guess that these singers fill a void, or fulfil a market need, but once you've heard (and subsequently forgotten) one, the same fate awaits the rest. For all the homogeneous blandness, there is a core of exciting and worthy talent, whom are making strides to be heard, amidst the rabble of white noise. It is a rarity to see- and not just in the female market- a talent whom is capable of unleashing a singularly fascinating voice, and tying that to a remarkable songwriting ability. Even rarer do we see artists whom achieve all of this, and keep the quality rate, not only consistent, but burgeoning.


The case of 23-year-old Laura Marling, is to say the least, a unique one. With musical parents, and a household filled with music, it was perhaps not a shock that the daughter Marling was going to follow in similarly-shaped footsteps. What was unusual, perhaps, was that Marling decided to choose folk music, as her muse and museal fascination. In a period (the early-mid '00s), where a lot of focus was paid to indie and rock sector, bands such as The Strokes and The Libertines, were perhaps most aspired to , and replicated. For the solo artist, there was perhaps a paternal encouragement to go into the safe trades: pop, pop-rock and perhaps soul. Around the age of 16, Marling relocated to London, uprooted herself from a rather uncertain future, at home. It was in the capital where she met (and subsequently fell in love with) Charlie Fink (of Noah and the Whale), as well as a group of like-minded musicians. The press, lazily referred to them, as 'nu folk'; for the remainder of the music world, they were seen as a veritable breath of fresh air; something that was an antidote and remedy to the heavy electrics and pulsating percussion, that was tattooing the sound-scape of '00s music. Marling's musical endeavour began around 2007, where she was afforded the opportunity to perform at a number of prestigious festivals, including the first-ever Underage Festival. The Hampshire-born siren began collating a loyal band of followers, and it is with an inherent confidence as well as a growing demand that 'Alas, I Cannot Swim', was released. Whilst perhaps not her strongest album, it hinted at a very bright future, one which was made possible by a modal and genetic simplicity: one woman, one guitar, one voice. It was a little while to wait before she was cemented as the benchmark for all female solo artists, as around 2008-2009, a lot of similar artists such as Feist, were making their mark. In spite of the fact that it was nominated for a Mercury Music Prize, and featured such stunning tracks as 'My Manic and I' and 'Ghosts', it reached only no. 45 in the charts. Continuing a succession of albums containing the word 'I', with a lot of songs that didn't necessarily pertain too much on Marling's troubles, 'I Speak Because I Can' garnered a hell of a lot of critical praise, and fared a lot better. Many were indoctrinated by Marling's studies on the responsibility of womanhood, and the issues and heartaches that are sometimes faced. As well as a lot of credence being paid to her, as The Guardian put it, "crisp and unflinching (songwriting). Allmusic were impressed by Marling's unique phrasing, which they compared to that of Joni Mitchell; whilst they went on to say that the album "delivers almost on every level". Heartache, pain and the nature of love are recurrent and cyclical issues for almost everyone; yet Marling employed them as vicissitudes; crafting 10 tight tracks, which captured the imagination. Even as early as her sophomore album, Marling had established herself, not only as the greatest songwriter and lyricist of her generation, but possibly the most accomplished female songwriter since Mitchell. There were Dylan-esque chord progressions, instantly quotable sets and couplets, and an amazing confidence. It was at the prefaced infancy of the Mendelian inheritency summation, 'A Creature I Don't Know', where I came in. As a similarly-minded (if slightly older) songwriter, I found much inspiration within the songs. I found a lot of relatable autobiography when learning about Marling's emotional state at the time of writing the album. She spent many a day in cafes, scrawling in books for months "before any songs took shape". I still do this, and have the daily experience, but Marling utilised this loneliness and introspection to craft her finest album to date. Many critics hinted at a more literary focus to several songs, including 'Salinas' (which was inspired by a book about John Steinbeck), and 'Sophia' (written after Marling completed reading of 'The Rebel Angels'). Perhaps born as an arbitrary axiomatic reaction, or a symbolic shift, Marling's voice was lower and more emotive on this collection. It was the centrepiece 'The Beast' which struck my hardest. With its building wonder, and storm-blinding atmosphere, it showed the maturity and confidence of an artist more advanced in years. Not only could- and can- Marling justify her role as the leader of the new avant-garde with acoustic guitar beauty, and a stunning and compassionate voice, but also through the orchestration of strings- with homonymic duality, when considering 'heart strings' were being plucked- and forbidding and ominous percussion. It was the aggregation of consistently stunning songs, a new and more developed sound; and a new social philosophy, enforced by a demurred and subjugated emotional mindset, that saw the album placed in the 'Top 50 Albums of 2011' lists of Mojo and Uncut. This brings us, perhaps with little succinct tread, to Marling's latest creation,' Once I Was An Eagle'. Whether the tonal shift from personal doubt, personal immersion, and beast tackling signals a refreshed and positive outlook on life, is difficult to say, but in a recent interview with The Guardian (which I shall mention more in the conclusion), hints that Marling, may finally be where she wants to be in life, and, dare we say 'contented'. Marling is a highly intelligent woman, unconcerned with poppycock such as fate, miracles and a greater power. She knows that in order to be autonomous and continuously adored, she needs to keep moving (quite literally, in fact, given that her new home is L.A.), whilst regenerating and calibrating her talents as a songwriter. There is a lot of speculative deceleration being levied towards the album; with many claiming that it will be her greatest set of songs yet. NME have been lucky early recipients of the album, and have cut through any folderol, to proclaim the album as her most accomplished work "by some distance". As Marling did with 'Don't Ask Me Why' and 'Salinas' from 'Creature', the first four tracks from the new album will take the form of a medley- with each song of the quartet, running into one another. Whether it will be a sort of 'Abbey Road' second side-cum 'A Creature I Don't Know' machination, is unsure. It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that our featured song is track 5 of the album. With such a rich and variegated history from Marling, whom has penned three rather compelling and addictive chapters thus far, I settled down to experience my first taste of 'Once I Was An Eagle'.


Before I try to seduce 'Master Hunter', I am struck by the album title Marling has chosen. I am guessing at least, that the album titles (perhaps more so than the song titles) are demonstrative and indicative of an emotional malaise or deeper physiological pain. Where as the first two albums were perhaps more literal in this respect, 'A Beast I Used To Know' was more oblique and mysterious. Whether the 'Beast' referred to a former love, an emotional state, or an abandoned creative paragon, is for the open-minded. I suspect that there is some reference to creative rebirth, and a spiritual calm in our heroine, that leads to the words 'Once I Was An Eagle' being chosen, as the album's moniker. Or perhaps not. One of the fascinating and inscrutable aspects of Marling, is that she is as open as you want her to be about her songs as she is with her personal life. I suspect that the album as a whole will be reflective of a wider personal Munchhausen Trilemma: she is letting her music do the talking and explaining. With a paltry 15,000 or so YouTube views, and 50 comments on SoundCloud, 'Master Hunter' is deserving of an accelerated and dedicated obeisance. The track gets into your brain right from the off; unleashing a myriad hailstorm of acoustic strings. At once I was reminded of the odd number on 'Led Zeppelin III'- especially 'Celebration Day' and 'Bron-Y-Aur Stomp'. There is that same weaving fire and ecstatic within the initial bursts of 'Master Hunter'. It is the percussion that adds extra depth. It is a ballast to the speedy strings; a punctuated artillery that, combined, musters up a theatrical and majestic mood. When Marling announces her voice, it is familiar to fans of 'A Creature I Don't Knows' finest moments. It is calm and authoritative; not lecturing, instead the usual mix of qualitative principality and that unique phrasing and annotation. There are country twangs to Marling's voice, giving you a flavour of '70s U.S. country; there is a veritable smorgasbord of Dixie delight. Marling's vocalisation is neither a parody or feint tribute; she has always had this edge to her voice. There is an edge of Dylan and Young in the guitar tones, as well as some of the more evocative lyrics. Marling is a master at subverting expectation, and after she announces: "You want a woman/Because you want to be saved", the subsequent lyrics tumble, and roll from her mouth; syncopated and twisted of tongue. The lyrical themes bear resemblance to her core mandates: emotional dislocation; the disparate nature of love, and a longing for some space and independence. Dylan sang in 1964, about a woman who wanted him to "open each and every door"; in 2013 Marling is speaking about a man whom wants someone "who can call your name". Both reach the same conclusion: "It ain't me babe". Again there is a homonymic tic; both beneath the skin and a nervous one on the cheek, as Marling defies gravity and lets her words pour out. The comparisons with 'Another Side of Bob Dylan'-era Zimmerman. There are similarly frantic and toppling vocals; as well as a mixture of literal and oblique lyricism. When Marling lets us know: "I don't stare at water anymore/Water doesn't do what it used to do before", one suspects that she is not speaking literally. The 'water' may refer to creative endeavours, or words; or simply- as is common with all great poets- whatever interpretation you have, it is a thirst that will be unslaked. Marling, backed by jiving, alpha-helixs of drums, remains steady and unflinching, as she lets the disgraced hound-dog know exactly what's what. Marling shifts narratives, when she tells of "You let me into your bed"; she is speaking not only to a perhaps-clingy wannabe lover, but also to an unnamed femme fatale. In spite of Marling being in a better head space that she was in 2011, her ability to cut brilliant shapes from black velvet, remains undiminished. Bon mots, such as "They can't get into my head/Oh they don't have a hope in hell", are juxtaposed and intertwined with notions of suicidally and riparian torment. Marling's voice is at times, augmentative and youthful (when she sings the words "bullet in my brain" she does with a little skip; again hinting at a young Dylan), complete with honeyed and delectable bursts of femininity; whilst, in the spirit of capricious endeavour, portray a more carbolic and indigo hue. What is not open for interpretation is how confident Marling sounds. Gone is any timidity or meekness that may have haunted her 18-year-old mind; there is triple bluff to her swing either. I could well imagine Marling in the studio, microphone overhead, as she punches her arms and kicks her heels, loving every second. This stately grace and dauntless appeal imbue the song with racing stripes and a summery breeze. The dance of 'Master Hunter' changes tempo at around 1:54. Where as the chorus is a little more relaxed and takes its time to say what it needs to, here the pace is faster and spiritedly; Marling shows some of the D.N.A. from Dylan's 'It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)'- there is a comparable urgency. Where as Marling previously has kept a measure of composure and restraint, now she is angrier and more studded- even dropping the f-bomb at one stage. I suspect that there are parralel lines between the song's themes and Laura's personal circumstances (and her move from London to L.A.). Having elicited scenes of darkness and struggle, she sings about "Take me somewhere I can grow". Whether there is detachment or if she is referring to her dissatisfaction and sense of suffocation living in the U.K., is a uncertain. It would be most naive to think that there isn't some personal relevance in the song's themes of dissatisfaction and dislocation. Marling has always been an elementary particle; a woman that is not content to rest and be unhappy anymore. As the song comes to a resplendent, if premature end, there will be a smile on your face. You will instantly want more, and it is impressive that even in a 3:17 track, Marling can say so much, and leave so many questions unanswered. It is her intrinsic genius as a songwriter and artists that she can do this so consistently and unabated.


I shan't keep you too much longer, but there are a couple more things to say. Marling current resides in the U..S, but I am hoping that she remains faithful to her voice- both literal and creatively, as she is our brightest star in a crowded musical solar system. Marling has never had to concern herself with conforming to any expectation or fitting any ill-fitting moulds. She is a beautiful woman, filled with renewed confidence and inspiration. She is someone who has always managed to craft stunningly intelligent and thought-provoking lyrics, without slipping into pretentious waters. Above all, she has an alluring and tumescent appeal that is a rarity today. She is very honest and likeable as a person, and has always kept appropriate cards close to her chest. In a way she is a poster girl for the 21st century. In an age where there is so much bland and plastic talent, and ghastly talentless talent, caked in make-up, unable to string an eloquent and coherent sentence together, Marling is an undiluted tonic. There should be more like her; it would make music a better place, but in a sense knowing there is just the one of her, makes her music and majesty all the more special. Aside from any fawning rants from me, Marling has taken another big step away from her peers, and showing the female (and male) solo artist how it should be done; not only from a personal viewpoint, but creatively. 'Master Hunter' shows that Marling as close to a young Bob Dylan, as the current-day Dylan is. It is not an over-exaggeration to say that a few years from now she will be mentioned in comparable breaths, and I hope that we are still hearing albums from her, by the time she hits 30. 'Master Hunter' is not going to be anomaly in the context of the forthcoming 'Once I Was An Eagle'. It will be filled with similarly egalitarian and masterful tracks.


I am going to conclude by giving a some details from a recent interview Marling gave to The Guardian. Marling resides currently in Silver Lake, Los Angeles, and she lives on what was described as an "unremarkable stretch" of road. Her daily routine consists of visiting a local bookshop (often purchasing one), frequenting a nearby coffee shop. It is part of her "ridiculous life" as she explains, and she loves how she doesn't have to explain herself to anybody. She moved to L.A. because of its landscape, diversity, as well as easy sociability. The move came about, from Marling's growing feeling of unrest living in London, and the U.K. as a whole. She liked to be alone, but not to feel lonely, but explains that residing in England is not conducive to this desire. The pace and the lifestyle seem to suit her well, as I could tell from the interview and the narrative, that she feels at home amongst the busy streets and curious scenes; interesting bookshops, fascinating little bars, with plenty of people to talk with. Marling is used to answering questions about her personal life, and gives precious little scandal. There is a lot of over-interpretation with regards to her artistic license, and there has been a lot of interest surrounding the new album, and the inspirations behind the songs: love, life, changing locations... the lot. Reading the interview, you get the impression that the new city is doing her a lot of good. She explained that she didn't want to "accept unhappiness" anymore. It is the need for change, the desire to be in a new land: one which is not so suffocating and lonely, that has inspired a lyrical and musical regeneration and development. The woman behind the music seems a lot happier and peaceful than at previous avenues of her life. She has a hell of a long career ahead of her, I hope, and it is good that, with a fourth album beckoning, contentment is tangible. Whether this changes things for the better or worse in the future is moot, because her music, appeal and stunning results have never been dictated by lifestyle, locality or scandal. She is at a core an ever-evolving and restless songwriter, who is as inspired by literature, as she is of the scenes of the city streets. With a new personal paragon in sight, local bookshops with beautiful color (sic.) schemes, and less hostile (?) streets beneath her feet, 'Once I Was An Eagle' will be reflective of a young woman with a lot to say...



... and a long, long career ahead of her.





Interview quotations taken from

















'Once I Was An Eagle' will be available on 27th May via:



Track listing

All songs written and composed by Laura Marling.











"Take The Night Off"







"I Was An Eagle"







"You Know"














"Master Hunter"







"Little Love Caster"







"Devil's Resting Place"





















"Where Can I Go?"














"Pray For Me"







"When Were You Happy? (And How Long Has That Been)"







"Love Be Brave"







"Little Bird"







"Saved These Words"