Friday, July 23rd, 2010
I Speak Because I Can
Review of Laura Marling’s I Speak Because I Can
VirginThe short list of nominees for the 2010 Mercury Prize – awarded to what is deemed the best British or Irish album of the past year – was announced this week and somewhat surprisingly, I didn’t find myself immediately hitting up Wikipedia to see who half the nominees were the way I have the last few years. Not only did I know who pretty much all the artists nominated were, but I’d even heard fully half of the records. Come on, Mercury judges, you’re clearly not trying hard enough to be obscure.
I was particularly pleased to see Laura Marling’s sophomore effort I Speak Because I Can get a nod, making her two for two in Mercury nominations in her short but impressive career so far. I was pleased, but not surprised, as the new record is arguably superior to her 2008 debut Alas, I Cannot Swim, and I thought that record was superb. Whereas the debut contrasted Marling’s wise yet youthful words and voice with a folk-pop accompaniment that often tilted toward the jaunty, the follow-up is somewhat starker and with a more traditional folk/Americana aesthetic that might be more conventional, but is perfectly executed and consequently more powerful. By way of example, the opening track “Devil’s Spoke” is darker and more driving than anything on Swim ever hinted at, but it’s offset by the exceptionally gentle and pensive, “Goodbye England (Covered In Snow)”.
Some of the change in tone between records can be attributed to the change in producers from the effective but relatively green Charlie Fink of Noah & The Whale to veteran Ethan Johns, but most of the credit goes to Marling’s growth as a singer and songwriter. On Speak, she taps into a place of even greater emotional depth and honesty, and articulates it with a sort of conversational poeticism that some artists couldn’t even conceive of, let alone practice. And though it’s been said many times, it really does bear repeating: she is just 20 years old, and the amount of talent she’s already been able to harness is staggering. I don’t think that Speak will win the Mercury – it’s probably too traditional for their tastes – but I do believe that every record she releases should and will be nominated. Because they’ll be that good.
Though it seems the Laura Marling tour itinerary checked Toronto off its list with the show at Lee’s back in February, she is in the area right now, appearing tonight at the Hillside Festival in Guelph. She also talks to NME about a 7″ single consisting of Neil Young and Jackson Frank covers that will be due out on Jack White’s Third Man Records on August 9. It’s unclear if plans to release a second album recorded with Ethan Johns this year are still on the front burner – I can’t imagine they’d want to dilute the attention that Speak continues to get.
So if I don’t think Marling will take the Mercury, who will? Foals’ Total Life Forever grows on me more with each listen, but I get the sense that The xx are an inevitability. Their momentum has been growing steadily all year and shows no signs of abating. Their Fall North American tour, which sees them booked into some pretty massive halls, including Massey Hall on September 29, won’t seem quite so overambitious if they can bill them as “Mercury Prize winners The xx”. Not that most North Americans know what the Mercury Prize is. And if you don’t even know who The xx are, The Telegraph has an introductory profile.
For Folk’s Sake reports that Emmy The Great is nearly done writing her second album and will soon be headed into the studio to record. Those who sign up for her mailing list at Pledge Music can get an MP3 of “First Love” done live and mariachi style for free.
Marina & Diamonds’ September 8 Toronto debut appearance has been moved from the El Mocambo to The Opera House. Tickets are $16.50 and all ducats for the El Mo show will be honoured in Leslieville.
With the start of his North American tour postponed by visa issues, Kele has rescheduled the date at the Mod Club which was supposed to happen next week for September 3, same venue. Tickets $20. And to make it up to fans, he’s released a new video.
The Charlatans have released a video for the first single from their new record Who We Touch, getting a North American release on September 14. Look for them at Lee’s Palace shortly thereafter on September 17.
Spinner and Spin talk to Spiritualized main man Jason Pierce about the upcoming and final recital of the complete Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space happening at New York’s Radio City Music Hall next week.