May was the month of a lot of changes, a big move, and the closing of one chapter of my life. It was also a great month for music, and despite being too ill to make the Great Escape, all the tracks in this playlist made May very musically memorable.
Here’s to June, it’s going to be great as both sunshine and Glastonbury are on the menu.
It was over 5 years ago that an 18 year old Laura Marling released her debut album, Alas I Cannot Swim. At the time of it’s release the phrase ‘wise beyond her years’ was thrown around quite a lot, a little too much. Produced by Noah and the Whale’s Charlie Fink, the record made Marling one of the youngest people to ever be nominated for the Mercury Prize. Since then we’ve had two more records, 2009’s I Speak Because I Can and 2011’s A Creature I Don’t Know. Each record sees an obvious growth in Marling, lyrically but particularly melodically. After the introduction of some jazz themes on her last record, which sounded like a nod to Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark, I wondered if she would continue this theme on further records. However, instead what we have got is a quietly beautiful, introspective and honest attempt.
Yesterday, a 23 year old Marling saw the release of her forth record, Once I Was An Eagle. It’s instrumentally her simplest record, yet the themes which stretch through the 16-tracks make for a deep and often intense listen. There is a sense running through this record that she has gone back to basics. Or maybe she’s grown more and more into herself. Creature was a very assured record, maybe too much so. Once I Was An Eagle feels fragile and timid, yet it also sounds like she’s aware of that. The Americana influences come through, yet unlike Creature, this doesn’t sound like a Joni record, this sounds like her own. It feels almost like she has found her home, her resting place.
A couple of places on the record sound likes she’s trying the please the label, the only ‘single’ of the record is the rousing ‘Master Hunter’, which grows in sound rather like pretty much any Mumford song ever. However, it’s the places where she limits herself and where the instrumentation is minimal that the true beauty of this record truly shines through. Places like the 6 minute long ‘Little Love Caster’, the lazy Americana sounds of ‘Once’ and the 4 track melody which opens the record.
It’s fair to say that this is my favorite Marling record yet (but didn’t I say this about all of them?). I would think it would also result in her third Mercury nomination. You can buy Once I Was An Eagle through her online store in various formats.
I got this song on Laura Marling’s exclusive record store day 7″ release and absolutely fell in love with the track. It’s a shame really that someone has put it online, it deserves to be listened to on vinyl, and it deserves that mystery that it had before when only a few people had heard it.
But anyway it’s online and so now you deserve to hear it too. This is my new favourite Laura Marling song, just to die for. Amazing.
For any vinyl lover, Record Store Day is always pretty excited and highly anticipated. This year it falls tomorrow. Record store shops up and down the UK will be hosting live bands, selling exclusive content and perhaps doing lots of other lovely things.
This year, as usual, there is a whole heap of amazing artists releasing exclusive content. Here is a few of my top picks of that content. Head down to your local record store to pick up some of it and find out more about record store day here.
Laura Marling releases an exclusive 7″ single of Flicker and Fail with B-Side To Be A Woman (not previously released).
Arcade Fire release this 12″ featuring Sprawl II, my favourite track from their last killer album The Suburbs.
Beach House release a new track from their upcoming record ‘Bloom’. The track is called Lazuli and is another lovely dose of Beach House-y dream pop.
Edward Sharpe release a 7″ single of Love One Another. The track is taken from there new album which is out in May and is called ‘HERE’.
The wonderful Civil Wars are releasing the song ‘Dance me to the End of Love’ on 7″ with b-side ‘I Want you Back.
And so much more! Check it out here. If you are in London, head down to Rough Trade East where there is loads of stuff going on all day including an instore from Johnny Flynn.
So in case anyone was unaware, I really love Laura Marling. I loved her first album, I loved her second album, and I also love this album. I think she speaks to women in a way that no one else does at the moment, I sort of see her as a Joni Mitchell of our time. A songwriter and singer which has an incredible amount of influence on certain people’s lives, someone a lot of us won’t forget for years to come.
This album shows a further growth in maturity in Laura’s voice and songwriting and also in the arrangements. Opening track ‘The Muse’ could almost have been taken from Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark, with its jazz sensibilities. ‘I Was Just A Card’ begins gently with the line ‘I was just a card/caught up in the stars/looking down from Mars’ before the cello and drum line kicks in and the track continues to develop with the addition of brass instruments. Don’t Ask Me Why tells tales of loneliness and the narration in Salinas opens like a Bob Dylan track.
The Beast is something none of us were expecting, a broading track at almost 6 minutes with heavy instrumentation towards the end, making for the first time, Laura’s voice not the primary thing you hear. Night After Night is the only solo track on the record, just Laura and her guitar, which is honesty where I like her music best. Sophia, the first single from the record is a highlight with its repeating ‘I’m wounded by dust’ line. Final track ‘All My Rage’ is more bustly and more confident than anything ever produced from Ms Marling before. Her voice is louder and more shrill, and the country-like instrumentation heavier.
Throughout her voice is rich, and the songwriting full of emotion, unanswered questions and wisdom beyond her years. This album has been the highlight of a brilliant year for Laura where she won a Brit, and arguably entered the mainstream. But she manages to do it while keeping her integrity as an artist intact. At only 21 years old, she will undoubtably continue to flourish and will continue to make greater and greater albums.
Standout Tracks: Sophia, Night after Night, The Muse.
The new Bombay Bicycle Club album ‘A Different Kind of Fix’ is insanely good. One of the best albums of this year so far. This is Shuffle which is the current single from the album but you really must check out the whole thing!
A brand new gorgeous Lucy Rose song is out today, you can buy it on iTunes. It’s called Scar and features Jack Steadman from Bombay Bicycle Club.
A really beautiful song from Our Feathered Embers now! The single is to be released on October 3rd on handmade, hand stamped CD’s which will be sold at gigs and hopefully online too. They have a single launch at 93 feet East on the 3rd October too.
I am really in love with this little instrumental tune from Shura + Hiatus, you can download it for free too!
Another album I am loving at the moment is the new Grouplove album. Its a wonderful mixture of super happy pop songs fresh from California. The album is called ‘Never Trust a Happy Song’ which considering that all the songs on the album are remarkably happy, is probably one of the best album titles of this year.
And another great album that came out last week, the second from Slow Club. This is my favourite song from it so far. They tour the UK pretty soon, go and see them! Brilliant live band.
I haven’t yet raved about the new Laura Marling yet, but as expected, I am in love. She has gone more Joni Mitchell which I am so glad to see. This is one of my favourite tracks from it, and also the first track, The Muse.
And finally. You should be very, very excited to hear this EP. She is wonderful.
I had huge expectations for End of the Road festival, the perfect line-up, the non-corporate sensibility, the gorgeous setting, the right sort of crowd, would I be disappointed? No. Its every bit as lovely as expected.
For me, End of the Road was completely about the music, I saw so many wonderful sets and came across so many fantastic bands. The additional site features were an extra, but a much enjoyed extra. The Rough Trade Shop was a great idea and had several band signings daily. The woodland area was lit up beautifully with lots of wonderful secrets to be unfolded as you walked through the trees. The atmosphere was peaceful and family friendly, it’s about as far from Reading and Leeds as you can get.
And the music, well, WOW. Joanna Newsom headlined the Sunday night, my main reason for attending the festival and I was completely blown away. She was heavenly and I was so grateful to get the opportunity to see her in that setting. The audience was quiet as a mouse, quite unusual for a 12,000 capacity venue. Joanna played completely solo and I think everyone of those 12,000 people was captivated by her sound. She is such an incredible talent and I shall wait in anticipation for her return to the UK.
Other highlights included, of course, Miss Marling who previewed many tracks from her new (and incredible) album ‘A Creature I Don’t Know’ (buy it now!!!). Josh T. Pearson provided humor amongst his 6 minute long break up songs and was a delight to see. Other Lives lived up to the praise I have given there album ‘Tamer Animals’. Willy Mason, Nathaniel Rateliff and The Staves were also all as lovely as ever. My two favorite new finds of the weekend were Dan Mangan and The Mountaineering Club.
Dan Mangan has the voice of Marcus Mumford but possesses a more chilled out country sound than the sons. At the end of the performance, which was on the main stage, he came right into the crowd and got everyone singing along. Truly in the EOTR spirit.
The Mountaineering Club were incredible and I will be writing more about them soon. A sound incredibly unique and voice which couldn’t fit more perfectly, it was one of my favorite performances of the weekend.
Overall, EOTR was a wonderful experience and I glad I got to go and experience what all the hype about the festival is about! They are starting a second festival next year in early June called ‘No Direction Home’ I am very excited about what we can expect from that!