Monday, July 26th, 2010

Laura Marling – Darkness Descends

This, obviously, is a hangover from Visual Illustration Thursday…


Edward Okulicz: Laura finally unleashes her album’s big pop moment as an actual single. That’s a relative statement, of course, because while “Darkness Descends” has big hooks that lend themselves to a singalong, it’s still understated and folksy and gorgeous. Eerie whistles poke through the strumming, the lyrics are poetic and evocative but hard to pin down and Laura’s best instrument — her voice — gets to show its versatility.

Rebecca Toennessen: Takes a while to get going, but this is growing on me. Laura’s voice isn’t anything special but it’s nice enough, and the folky-poppy guitar and singalong chorus are rather fun.

Kat Stevens: The doom-laden combination of flute and acoustical finger-picking conjures up a floral-framed scene where excessively cute bunnies and hedgehogs scamper over each other, tumbling down a sun-kissed hillock like they’re auditioning to advertise a new brand of organic butter named after Beatrix Potter. I half expect Toyah Wilcox to warmly announce over tweeting birds that it’s free from artificial colours and sweeteners. So it’s pleasantly jarring to instead hear Laura telling us of her massive fuck-ups, paranoia and awkward childhood memories. For Laura it’s not summer at all, it’s cold and miserable and she’s wasted her life, and to make matters worse there’s this goddamn cheerful Farthing Wood music bobbling along in the background. No wonder she thinks she’s going mad.

Chuck Eddy: I do detect a pinch of Renaissance Faire folke in ye olde guitars and quasi-Gregorian chanting. But when it comes to words, she sings like a detached priss. And frequently a narcoleptic one, to boot.

Tal Rosenberg: Singing over warm flutes but projecting no warmth in her voice, this song, with its ambiguous subject matter disguised in twee clichés (dark rooms, snow falling on precious Laura’s face), leaves me, at best, lukewarm.

Martin Skidmore: I’m still not quite falling for her, though the bouncier parts of this do appeal, and most of the lyrics are strong. I struggle a bit trying to fit her intonation and expression with the ups and downs of the song, but basically this is quite fun and quite interesting.

Jonathan Bogart: Perfectly lovely, a quiet hum that picks up into a soothing gallop without ever daring you to pay attention. Coffeeshops everywhere rejoice.

Alfred Soto: “I wouldn’t want to ruin something I couldn’t save” compensates for the line about falling snow making a home “upon” her face, and that’s how it goes with this far from unpleasant quasi-folk ballad: just when you think you’ve got her pegged, a rushed intonation here and a tempo shift there and sarcasm everywhere.

Alex Macpherson: Singles aren’t really the point of an artist like Laura Marling, but it’s still galling that she’s followed up an impressive statement of artistic purpose like “Devil’s Spoke” with the two most conservative cuts on I Speak Because I Can. On “Darkness Descends”, Marling shrugs off life’s travails with a wry acceptance, her man behind her all the way; it’s a jaunty counterpoint to the intensity surrounding it on the album, but it sounds like an off-cut from her debut in isolation.

Katherine St Asaph: Mercury nomination aside, it isn’t surprising that Laura Marling is still under a lot of people’s radar. She’s a female musician who is not particularly quirky, sexualized or angry, leaving too many people with no response but to mutter “quaint”, shrug and move on. They’re missing out on one of the best albums of the year, of which “Darkness Descends” is a perfect example: it takes a while to grow on you, but once it does, it absolutely devastates.

One Response to “Laura Marling – Darkness Descends”

  1. Argh, could’ve sworn I hit send on this:

    I Speak Because I Can has been a close-to-best of 2010 listen, speckled with a few genuine standout tracks and a larger number of above-average folkies that sound like covers even when they’re not. “Darkness Descends” falls into this camp; it’s enjoyable but not exemplary. An album this diverse, derivative, strident and strong implies a decade of considerable development, after which I expect these sort of baby steps will be relegated to shouted-out requests from die-hard fans. For the moment, it’ll do. – 6