Laura Marling, 'Alas, I Cannot Swim' (Astralwerks)

7
Alas, I Cannot Swim
Critical Mass
Label: astralwerks

by Amanda Petrusich

It might seem reductive to declare Laura Marling an old soul, but how many 18-year-old folkies sing earnestly (and convincingly) about death and divine judgment? Marling's debut LP is heavy with premature discontent, all broken bones, sleeplessness, and waking up lonely: "Sometimes I'm convinced my friends think I'm crazy," she murmurs in "My Manic and I," sounding, for one fleeting moment, like an actual teenager. Marling's voice, rich and tenuous, recalls Joni Mitchell, but her fatalistic screeds -- sung over acoustic guitar, with an occasional burst of percussion or strings -- owe more to Nick Drake and Will Oldham.

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