Monday, May 13th, 2013

Laura Marling – Master Hunter



Katherine St Asaph: What the hell happened to Laura Marling last year? Not technically — she was proficient when you were puking up high-school wine slurpees, and every lead single stuns me anew with just how good she is — but personally, as she’s now gone from staying up doing sleepless, selfless psychic battle for glum boyfriends to writing “Left Alone“: the fuck-off folk version. Saddling Marling’s latest with Idler Wheel comparisons is about as crap a move as saddling her other albums with Dylan comparisons was, and closing oneself off from men and all is far from an uncommon theme for women writers, but everything corresponds: the antsy clatterclang percussion; her runaway intonation, as in “I’ve got a littlelalot on my plate” (especially “plate”); lines like “I don’t [cry when I’m sad/stare at water] anymore.” Marling’s a different sort of singer, reaching for revival cadences (example: “no, no, no-o-o) where Apple reaches for vaudeville. She’s a different sort of songwriter, too — adding the earth to metaphors like “I cured my skin,” kind of a city/country mouse contrast; preferring Latin mythology to Apple’s Latinate words. Marling’s got her own mythology by now, too, and the verse where she alludes to “Alas I Cannot Swim” breaks your heart if you’ve followed her from the start, before she became hard to know. (If that’s meta, it’s sadder still.)

Brad Shoup: Puzzling that a track this blood-swollen dips into a bit of slutshaming. I suppose you can’t inhabit someone’s skin without it grafting a little. That’s how we get a typical serrated Marling track that keeps dipping into the cadences of “Tangled Up in Blue.” Per the Dancing Did, the rhythm section sticks together. I’m hopeful Marling puts it to more frightful use soon enough.

Jer Fairall: Laura Marling understands swagger far better than any current folkie. While her ex Marcus Mumford equates rock ‘n’ roll with stadium-ready histrionics, Marling’s songs have a primal urgency that feels — oh, I’ll just go ahead and say it — far more real than those of her guitar-strumming peers. “Master Hunter” has a fierce momentum similar to the bounding, inexorable “Rambling Man” and the slow-building climax of the majestic “Sophia,” possibly her two best songs to date. If this one admittedly falls a bit shy of that high standard, perhaps it lurches a bit too quickly out of the gate, Marling failing to allow herself the space to work the song up into the fury that makes their payoffs so reliably cathartic. Still, she manages to drop an F-bomb with such casual scorn that it registers as genuinely shocking the first few times through, and the nod to Dylan is inserted into the flow of the narrative with such ease and confidence that it feels completely earned.

Anthony Easton: It quotes Dylan not only in the lyrics, but in the slightly off edge of the singing and the loping guitars: quoting Dylan like he quoted Henry Timrod, as a winking abstraction and an as act of control of tradition and text. It is something that folk music is supposed to do, but rarely does. 

Alfred Soto: The props are in their places: the acoustic riff bounces off the rubberband bass line, Dylan allusion for the nerds in the audience. But I don’t hear a single ear-catching inflection in Marling’s voice. 

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: “I. Am. A. Master. Hunter.” Marling relishes saying this as much as possible, emphasising the hierarchical power behind “master” and the undulating threat of “hunter”. At the close of the song, she relishes “HUNT,” spitting it out with such a relish that I did a double-take, utterly convinced that she was swearing. “Hunter” doesn’t shy away enough from its influences to act as an artistic revelation — the word-tumble angst is all Fiona, the guitar stance is all Patti -– but its clenched-fist power is certainly an interesting direction.

Jonathan Bogart: There’s blood and sinew here that I don’t remember hearing from her before, though I’d doubt my memory before hers. I like the fierceness of the attack maybe all the more for the fact that it’s unarmed, so to speak.

Edward Okulicz: On its own merits, it’s a perfectly good blues song, it’s just that it’s only halfway up a very long ladder Marling’s climbed before.

Reader average: [8.16] (6 votes)

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