Laura Marling’s third album A Creature I Don’t Know was an extraordinary achievement for an artist of any age, let alone the 21 year old blaze of talent that she was at the time. A work of aching purity and glorious melodies, this album marked a major step forward in her oeuvre, high praise indeed for someone whose two previous albums were nominated for the Mercury Prize. Yes, four years after its 2011 release we’re still intoxicated and slightly overheated with this album. You will be too.
Produced once again by Ethan Johns, the record open with “The Muse”, in which the singer meets up with “a man who talked to me so candidly/ More than I’d choose… I feel again the bruise/ of longing ever longing to be confused”.
“Night After Night” might have come from the pen of Leonard Cohen and if so would be ranked with the best songs he’s written in the past forty-five years or so of his illustrious career. It’s replete with gorgeous guitar-playing, lyrics that tear your heart out, and a penetrating insight into the complexities of love that just might heal a broken heart or two. Oh yes, and sung by the wonderful instrument that is Laura’s inimitable voice.
“By the end of the take I was almost in tears,” said producer Ethan Johns of “Night After Night”. Our reaction too.
As literate as Cohen, as allegorical as Bob Dylan and as personal as Joni Mitchell, Ms. Marling has also adopted Joni’s penchant for unusual guitar tunings (she says this time she’s used “DGDGBD — “but the B string, if you make it B flat then it’s minor and if you make it A then it’s a seventh”). But, and this is a big one, none of them had it all going on like this at such a relatively tender age (though Dylan’s prolific nature and skill at self-promotion remain unmatched). Take for instance, the sprawling and snarling electric guitar wizardry in the album’s centrepiece known as “The Beast”. With this she leaves her contemporaries such as Fleet Foxes and Noah and the Whale far behind, giving the lie to any thought that this new album might be strictly an introspective folkie record.
Watch an abbreviated version of “Night After Night”