Random Access Memories
At the age of just 21, Laura Marling sounds terrifyingly wise beyond her years.
Just a year after her formidable second album, I Speak Because I Can, its follow-up finds Marling once again shining a torch deep into the recesses of her heart and soul while simultaneously taking a musical quantum leap.
Where her two previous offerings were delicate, spectral nu-folk confessionals, this time she has toughened up her sound, gained heft and drama and acknowledged the clear influence on her art of her musical heroine, Joni Mitchell.
This admiration is evident on the album's opener, The Muse, where the teasing, jazzy delivery is sheer Joni, and on the sparse but sultry Sophia, a deadpan ode to desire. She's also taking greater lyrical risks, with the melodramatic flourish of Salinas's stand-out line "My mother was the saviour of six-foot of bad behaviour" worthy of Leonard Cohen.
Yet these are but influences: Marling remains a devastatingly original and candid artist, particularly on the album's fulcrum, a six-minute dark-hued assault on a worthless lover called The Beast. For somebody so young, this is a staggering achievement.