Laura Marling

'Alas I Cannot Swim'

Released on 4 February 2008 on Virgin

The most anticipated albums of 2007 turned out to be a bit disappointing. Happily that trend hasn't been continued thus far in 2008. I shouted for Laura Marling in the CDX top tips and there's nothing on this album that'll make me back down from championing her.

Alas I Cannot Swim is a joy from start to finish, although perhaps joy isn't the right word - there's a flinty heart to many of the songs and a sting in many of the tales. Bad pun aside, this album takes a lightly morbid delight in dark subjects in much the same way that a Tim Burton film does - skip through the lyrics and you'll see mentions of drowning, break-ups, death, depression, failure and unrequited love.

Despite all that it's not a depressing album by any means. There are some lovely, playful moments; the giggle at the end of 'Tap At My Window', the nursery rhyme structure of 'Cross Your Fingers' ('Cross your fingers, hold your toes, we're all gonna die when the building blows') and the birdsong bridging the gap between the 'last' track and the hidden one.

Album reviewing convention dictates that I should pick out some highlights but that's proving quite a tall order. As I write this I'm leaning towards 'The Captain and the Hourglass' and 'Failure' but the impressive character study of 'My Manic and I', the jaunty 'Cross Your Fingers', the starkly defiant 'Night Terror' and 'You're No God' all press for attention. Even the weaker moments - 'Shine' and 'Your Only Doll (Dora)' - aren't bad, if anything they just suffer by comparison with the rest of the tracks.

It's hard to find an article or review that doesn't mention Laura's age or throw in patronising phrases about the maturity of her lyrics, but fast forward a few years to when her age will no longer matter and this will still be an excellent debut album.

Posted on 4 February 2008 by Chris Unitt

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Anonymous wrote:
Chris, what a wonderful and musically intelligent appraisal you gave of Laura Marling's album, Alas I Cannot Swim. She's a huge talent, and once heard not easily forgotten. She's building a big following of admirers, and that's thanks to fans of music who care enough to write well about it.

ps Did you reeally mean the phrase: 'Even the weaker moments..--. aren't good' though? It read like you meant '..are good, if anything..'
     Posted on 13 February 2008 at 21:34
Anonymous wrote:
You're Laura's relative and I claim my 5.

Just kidding. Ta for spotting my re-drafting cock-up (now corrected) and thanks for the kind words. I'll be back with a live review in a few weeks time too.
     Posted on 14 February 2008 at 00:29
chloe wrote:
this album is brilliant. i really cannot stop listening to it. treated myself to the songbox, and so worth it. Going to see her next week! Woo Woo!
     Posted on 29 February 2008 at 10:40
Anonymous wrote:
The songbox really is beautiful - at last an artist taking a bit of care about what they release.
     Posted on 29 February 2008 at 14:07

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