1. Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can
I speak because I can
To anyone I trust enough to listen
You speak because you can
To anyone who’ll hear what you say
-I Speak Because I Can
People will look back at the albums that made 2010 what they were. The albums that captured the moment – like Arcade Fire or Kanye West.
I will look back at 2010 through the lens of a little out of time album by Laura Marling.
It sounds like little else. Her wonderful first album was a folk surprise. But that album was young and romantic. Somehow, this girl of just twenty has returned sounding like she’s 80. As if she has lived a whole life and wants to tell you about it.
There are no pop songs on this record – which may be why it didn’t sell as well as one might have hoped. It’s a tough album. And her remarkable voice – it’s not exactly made for radio. Her songs – about the devil, of loveless marriages and lives wasted – are not exactly “Pokerface”.
She is also the finest female guitar player of her generation. In a Joni Mitchell sense – she plays with tunings and constantly comes up with hypnotic guitar work. Like her vocals and her songs – her guitar has found it’s voice on this album. Something distinctly Laura Marling. And that’s so fucking exciting.
So that’s one thing I want to say about this album. That it’s utterly brilliant but it takes some work. That it’s out of time, which makes it timeless. It’s as good as Joni Mitchell’s Blue, and I will be listening to this album for years.
I loved this album with all my heart. I heard the first track, Goodbye England, at the end of 2009. It was a wee Christmas single in advance of the album, and it is still my favourite track on the album.
These singer songwriter albums – every year there seems to be one great one – are such malleable polaroids. Their directness leads to opening your own heart. In the era of iPods, those musical memories have pictures.
So Goodbye England, which tells of the smart coats and scarves we were in snowy weather – it will always make me think of Hyde Park. Of friends, workmates and lovers, crossing near the pond, on our way to find a pub. Or the winter markets there, drinking mulled wine, in our jackets, scarves and coats.
And that’s what this album does for me. It puts images in my eyes, ideas in my head and feelings in my heart. The album worries – about growing old, of wasted lives, of not expressing oneself. Whether it’s the maid in Made By Maid or the wife in I Speak Because I Can, the album is full of ruminations about life. The dignity of a small one, versus the romance of a big one.
When you have no one else to talk to, sometimes you talk to your albums. I spent a lot of 2010 thinking about life, and what it means to have a good one. Whether to be successful but mute, or humble and loud. Being mute, and speaking, is a big theme of the album.
There’s a fair bit of love on this album. But not the romantic love – but something more rustic. Of living together, or making lives. And there’s plenty of God, Devils and Judgement Days. It’s old timey, in a Gillian Welch sense. These are big themes.
So more than anything else, I learnt something from this album. And it helped push my life in a new direction. To speak, because I can.
Best tracks: Goodbye England, Devil’s Spoke, I Speak Because I Can
Official site – Laura Marling
The official video for the first single – Devil’s Spoke
…and Goodbye England from Jools Holland