[13] Laura Marling, ‘Where Can I Go?’


Junior laughs at the opening “I was a daddy’s girl…” She’s got theories about our family – Junior 2 is the daddy’s girl, Junior 3 is mummy’s all mummy’s, and she’s there for both of us. Or just ambivalent. She’s not impressed with how hushed Laura Marling is as this begins, but enjoys the song getting sturdier in increments as the first fruits of Marling’s fourth album show her getting more confident as they unfold, over just a few short minutes.

Marling refuseniks hear nothing more than a folk singer delicately plucking her acoustic over album after album – and possibly with a funny accent – but Once I Was An Eagle genuinely sounded different. I find her bluesier now, more soulful too, nearer to Van Morrison than Bob Dylan (although there’s plenty of Dylan in the latest album, occasionally knowing too). Actually, Marling could be the new Maria McKee, blending rock and soul with intriguing songwriting depth. And she’s still only 16.

Noah And The Whale, ‘L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.’

Noah And The Whale

Behind all the soft-pedal vulnerability of Noah And The Whale, there’s a ruthless core. How else would you explain a creative trajectory from folky tweeness to panoramic country-rock to FM drivetime over a piddling three albums? That rat Fink knows where he’s headed, but do we? I imagine it depends on Last Night On Earth’s eventual success. If Springsteen-lite gets the tills ringing, perhaps he’ll settle down.

After the unfocused Peaceful, He Lays Me Down and lovelorn First Days Of Spring, the latest is the least challenging of NATW’s albums, a robust chunk of pop that sounds great on the radio. This lead single uses an old trick – ‘D.I.V.O.R.C.E.’, ‘Y.M.C.A.’, ‘L.O.V.E.’ etc – to get a point across in the catchiest way possible. It’s a cheap hook (and few things are more effective than a cheap hook), and a message that continues Fink’s personal story, letting us know he’s moving on from his cri de coeur over Laura Marling. That’s good news for her too; few women in pop have had to endure so much embarrassment, from a whole album mooning over her, to her next beau’s stupid moustache.

Speaking of which, did you hear the one about Laura Marling and the posh bloke with the silly voice? No, the other one…

“Is this your favourite?” Junior asks, because she’s heard me singing it over and over, because I can’t help it, because it carves its own cranny in your brain. I just tell her I can’t help it. She gives the song the wishy-washy thumbs and I wonder where it falls down. “Because it spells it.” The hook’s too cheap for some.

[8] Noah And The Whale, ‘Blue Skies (YACHT Remix)’

Everyone loves a good volte-face in music, particularly when it’s a rather wacky folk-pop outfit deciding to ditch the jarring ditties in favour of widescreen heartbreak-infused indie-country-soul. So imagine the world’s delight when Laura Marling dumped chief Noah head Charlie Fink, forcing him to lick his wounds and make an excellent album detailing his “I’m fine, really. Really, I am. OK, I’m not. But I will be” stance. That’s what The First Days Of Spring turned out to be, and lead single ‘Blue Skies’ was its ray of hope.

But we’re concerned with YACHT’s remix here. The DFA crew took Noah And The Whale’s big music, stripped it back and turned it Balearic – yet still retained the beaten-and-bruised hopefulness of the source material. Junior does jazz hands to it, and a lengthy impersonation of one squeaky vocal effect, sweetly undercutting any grand moodiness. I play her the original too, which she describes as “mad”. It’s what this blog’s all about: an unfathomable perspective.

This is a song for anyone with a broken heart:

[7] Laura Marling, ‘Ghosts’

Laura Marling

And she’s only 18! Still! I’m not sure anyone’s ever been 18 for this long, but research (yeah, Wikipedia) suggests Laura Marling has a couple of months to go yet. As ever, it’s hard to believe when you listen to her worldly debut Alas I Cannot Swim with its seen-it-all songs and careworn empathy, but really – 18!

For just a second, you think ‘Ghosts’ is going to be twee-folk-lite, then suddenly it turns out perfect. The parts are delicately layered, tempos are swapped around, shy strings sidle in, Laura breaks our little hearts, drums perk up, a congregation of voices rears – they’re stalking each other – it’s a hymn now, the drums roll, end. Perfect.

With nothing driving her to cut a rug, Junior plays quietly with her sister. I tell her who’s singing and she replies, “Laura Marling. Oh.” It’s tricky to tell whether that’s quiet acceptance or utter apathy, but she’s listened through to the end as everyone should – its magic is in its full form.

That’s the last of the soloists, readers.

2008 Top 20 Singles?

Halfway through the year, always looking for delaying tactics and ways to ramp up the tension for the year-end countdown, here’s a minor indicator – the Top 20 Most Played 2008 Singles on my iPod thingy.

[1] Martha Wainwright, ‘Bleeding All Over You’
[2] The Ting Tings, ‘Great DJ’
[3] Laura Marling, ‘Ghosts’
[4] Alphabeat, ‘Fascination’
[5] Fleet Foxes, ‘White Winter Hymnal’
[6] Coldplay, ‘Violet Hill’
[7] The Ting Tings, ‘That’s Not My Name’
[8] Death Cab For Cutie, ‘I Will Possess Your Heart’
[9] MGMT, ‘Time To Pretend’
[10] Lykke Li, ‘I’m Good, I’m Gone’
[11] Coldplay, ‘Viva La Vida’
[12] Santogold, ‘L.E.S. Artistes’
[13] Portishead, ‘Machine Gun’
[14] Vampire Weekend, ‘Oxford Comma’
[15] Laura Marling, ‘Cross Your Fingers’/’Crawled Out Of The Sea’
[16] Hercules And Love Affair, ‘Blind’
[17] The Shortwave Set, ‘No Social’
[18] Goldfrapp, ‘A&E’
[19] H ‘two’ O featuring Platnum, ‘What’s It Gonna Be’
[20] Foals, ‘Red Socks Pugie’

Admit it. You’re astonished.