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Laura Marling - Semper Femina Album Review

"Semper Femina" (Always a woman) is a phrase reclaimed by Laura Marling and something she had tattooed on her leg ten years ago. It originally formed part of a Virgil line that shares the philosophy straight out of theBilly Joel Gender Studies Primer, where 'always' and 'woman' form part of a wider statement about how a woman is always fickle and changeable, but Marling's use of it couldn't be further from its origin.

Laura Marling - Semper Femina Album Review

Marling always intended her sixth album to be an evaluation of contemporary female identity, but she observed that in its early development, it looked at femininity as viewed by a man. At this point, she responded to an inner calling to put forth an unfiltered, unexpurgated, unapologetic female interpretation instead. That its release follows on from the Global Women's Marches and post-dates International Women's Day by no more than 48 hours makes this more than just a splendid suite of intelligent but unpretentious songs. Its cultural allusions to literary, artistic and psychological influences occur with the regularity of quiz answers you don't get on University Challenge, yet they are never baffling and nothing feels exclusive. This album is timely and of 'practical use' to contemporary society, as Marling hoped it would be.

Perhaps giving Virgil's 'changeable' label the tiniest smidgeon of credence, or refusing to be pigeonholed into one rigid persona, Marling alternates between voices, her English heritage and her American residence equally to the fore. The album's early releases exemplify this. "Wildfire" is almost drawling, cranky country, asking a potential lover, 'You wanna get high?' which sounds inviting, until she snarls 'You overcome those desires before you come to me.' "Soothing" has a very restrained, yet forthright Englishness to it, as well as pathos worthy of King Lear. 'Oh, my helpless wanderer, you can't come in,/ You don't live here anymore' calmly banishes an unwanted, unreliable influence, the duelling basses throughout evoking a sense of restless interplay between speaker and addressee.

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Andrew Lockwood's Top 10 Albums Of 2015

John Grant Jamie XX Lana Del Rey Laura Marling Will Varley Ghostpoet Son Lux Benjamin Clementine Belle And Sebastian

Belle & Sebastian - Girls In Peacetime, Girl Band - Holding Hands With Jamie, Benjamin Clementine - At Least For Now

10. Belle & Sebastian - 'Girls In Peacetime'.
A glorious return to top form for Belle & Sebastian. 'Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance' contains all the bands trade mark signatures as well as introducing a few new ones. The generally up beat, playful tone of the album is full of pathos, dark humour and heartfelt musings. This is Belle & Sebastian back to their creative best. With an arty intellect and a wry take on life they have combined some of their most varied musical scores to date with more of their joyous lyrics.

9. Girl Band - 'Holding Hands With Jamie'.
A wake up call that needs to be heard. 'Holding Hands With Jamie' is a shot in the arm; a torrent of musical mayhem and magnificent noise. Distorted and unrelenting, 'Holding Hands..' is an unapologetic onslaught to the senses and a nerve tingling jolt of excitement. A quite brilliant debut.

Continue reading: Andrew Lockwood's Top 10 Albums Of 2015

Brit Awards 2014 Nominations: Disclosure, Bastille, Rudimental Emerge On Top

Rudimental Disclosure Ellie Goulding Bastille Janelle Monae David Bowie James Blake Laura Marling

The nominees have been announced for this year's Brit Awards, which will be presented live in a ceremony on ITV on the 19th February. The annual awards celebrate the year's biggest British music stars, in a competition that is as hotly contested as ever after a thrilling year in music.

Disclosure Could Be About To Get A Lot More Famous With Four Potential Brit Awards Headed Their Way.

Bastille and Disclosure have emerged as the early front-runners after netting four nominations apiece and will go head-to-head in the Mastercard British Album of the Year, British Breakthrough Act, British Single and British Group categories. Though both groups have enjoyed rocketing to success this year, Disclosure and their album Settle may have the edge due to having been also nominated for last year's Mercury Music Prize.

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Mercury Prize Shortlist Announced, But Does It Even Matter Anymore?

Arctic Monkeys Foals Laura Marling David Bowie Savages James Blake

The Barclaycard Mercury Music Prize this week announce the shortlist for it's 12 favourite albums of the last 12 months, albums that it claims are "urgent" and are "reflective" of the evolving sound of contemporary music. Once a haven for alternative acts like Portishead and Gomez, this years awards once again have gone for the most obvious choices and rather than celebrate any "urgent" talent, artists that routinely play on the radio or television have been picked ahead of the Hookworms and Darkstars of the British and Irish music scene.

Arctic Monkeys
The Arctic Monkeys are hardly an "urgent" band

The Arctic Monkeys are now a bonafied rock staple, whilst Foals and Laura Marling have each been nominated in the past and are regularly given air time on 6 Music or Jools Holland, etc., not to mention the fact that Marling has been handed a BRIT Award too. As for newcomers Disclosure, Rudimental and Jake Bugg, neither are exactly challenging their respective fields of house, drum and bass and rockabilly, but simply making it more radio-friendly and pop accessible. This isn't a dig either, this is something that all three artists should openly agree with. As for David Bowie; he's David Bowie. Need we say more?

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Barclaycard Mercury Prize 2013: This Year’s Nominees For Album Of The Year

Alt-J Arctic Monkeys David Bowie Laura Mvula Laura Marling

The Barclaycard Mercury Prize nominations have come round again, designed to celebrate this year's best British musical offerings. Last year we saw Alt-J with An Awesome Wave take home the coveted music industry prize and have since seen them go on from strength to strength with full UK touring and an extensive festival diary as the indie quartet revelled in the exposure the annual awards had brought them and their infectious, enthralling debut.

Alt J
Last Year's Winners, Alt-J, Benefitted From The Prize.

This year's nominees, as announced this very evening predictably include Arctic Monkey's AM, Disclosure's Settle, David Bowie's The Next Day, and Foals' Holy Fire. However the other choices include Laura Marling's Once I Was An Eagle, Jake Bugg's self-titled debut, and Laura Mvula's Sing To The Moon - all pleasing choices which will make for an interesting and unpredictable race to the 30th October awards show.

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Laura Marling's 'Once I Was An Eagle' Soars With The Critics

Laura Marling

Laura Marling looks to have made a stunning return with her new album Once I Was An Eagle. The 23 year-old is already onto her fourth album and, if reviewers would have you believe, it could arguably be the strongest in the once Mercury-nominated artist’s suit yet.

Simply described as “a masterpiece” by the Daily Telegraph in their review, other assessments have followed a similar vein. “Recalls Joni Mitchell's landmark Blue in the way she ruthlessly dissects her love life, hunting for emotional satisfaction,” comment Uncut, with Clash Magazine adding “Marling must now be considered one of the greatest singer-songwriters of both her generation and generations before it.”

The 405 comment “Her best album yet; better individual songs may lie elsewhere, but her new record's cohesive nature makes it much more of an adventure than what came before.”

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A Week In Music - Alicia Keys Girl On Fire Promotion Still Going, Cayucas Debut Makes For The Perfect Summer Listen And Latest Michael Jackson Court Case Begins

Alicia Keys Kurt Vile Sub Focus Laura Marling 30 Seconds to Mars Cayucas Walk Off The Earth Michael Jackson One Direction Lil Wayne

Alicia Keys Press Picture

A Week In Videos... She might have just wrapped up her Set The World On Fire tour, but the promotional drive for Alicia Keys fifth album Girl On Fire rolls on, with the multi-million selling songstress putting out a video for the third single from the 2012 Billboard number one LP. The video for 'New Day' sees clips of studio-shot footage of Keys dancing down back alleys, interspersed with footage of the star performing live in various instances. Given that her last single Brand New Me reached a meagre 103 at the tale of end of 2012 in America, it's going to be hard for 'New Day' to make much of an impact.

Kurt Vile's Wakin On A Pretty Daze was his most commercially successful album yet, going close to the top 40 in the UK and making 47 on the US Billboards. Yet the American psych-wizard is about more than sales figures, and pleasingly his fifth album also perhaps marks his most accomplished to-date, a record of dreamy soundscapes and hazy Americana tale-telling. Given the woozy nature of 'Never Run Away,' we wonder just exactly what that smoke coming out of the bus at the beginning of the video is...

Continue reading: A Week In Music - Alicia Keys Girl On Fire Promotion Still Going, Cayucas Debut Makes For The Perfect Summer Listen And Latest Michael Jackson Court Case Begins

A Week In Music - Bowie's 'The Next Day' Album Was Worth The Wait, Sigur Ros Back At Their Spectacular Best, Everything Everything Take Another Step Into The Mainstream With 'Duet'

David Bowie Rhye Foxygen Atoms For Peace Sigur Ros Everything Everything Big Boi Outkast The Neighbourhood Laura Marling Bruce Springsteen Seasick Steve Hard Rock Calling Lounge On The Farm

David Bowie Next Day Cover

Albums of Note... David Bowie’s return to the shelves of our local record shops (well, the few that still exist) has been met with a grateful and adulatory fanfare, across the board and it’s been no different here at Contactmusic. Having run out of contemporary influences upon which to draw, Bowie took the old adage that pop will eat itself and made an album to fit. On The Next Day, Bowie largely references himself and his own body of work, recalling his Berlin days, as well as providing an extension of the tracks he released in the nineties.“Assessing how The Next Day sits alongside anything else he's done is irrelevant; an artist who has gone through as many character changes, taken on as many styles and moved through as many eras as he has defies such lazy list making. What can be said is that it is, at this point in time, at this point in his life and career, probably as good a record that David Bowie could've possibly come up with.”

Some of the mystery of Rhye’s cloaked existence has been unveiled and the band’s two components have been revealed as Toronto born producer Mike Milosh and Robin Hannibal of Quadron. They draw comparisons to The XX, partly thanks for Milosh’s falsetto, which led many to believe that it was a woman on vocals. Possibly part of the reason they choose to entitle the album Woman...? “'Woman' is a chilled, tranquil listen but not a boring album by any means. The duo creates songs that fill with distant, mysterious moods. But, it still feels like an intimate album piled high with textured layers.”

Continue reading: A Week In Music - Bowie's 'The Next Day' Album Was Worth The Wait, Sigur Ros Back At Their Spectacular Best, Everything Everything Take Another Step Into The Mainstream With 'Duet'

Laura Marling, A Creature I Don't Know Album Review

21 years old. 3rd solo album. 2 Mercury nominations. Winner of a Best Female Brit and numerous other awards. Former member of Noah & The Whale and with a rich stream of interesting collaborative ventures, including those with The Rakes and Mystery Jets, already behind her. Still just 21 years old. (You need to adopt a Greg Wallace accent for the next sentence) Singer song writers don't come better than this.

Continue reading: Laura Marling, A Creature I Don't Know Album Review

Laura Marling, I Speak Because I Can Album Review

Laura Marling's recent history is a public one, so requires a brief recap only for those who inhabit planet chart. Discovered at the tender age of sixteen through MySpace, she initially worked with Noah & The Whale, whose Charlie Fink produced her first album, 2008's Mercury Nominated Alas, I Cannot Swim. Fink duly became her ex significant other (Replaced by Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons) and proceeded to base his band's second album The First Days of Spring on the couple's break up, sieving every last dolorous pebble of heartbreak through angst ridden filters. The results paradoxically transformed their standing overnight from twonky nitwits into serious artists to be reckoned with. Hey ho.

In interviews Ms.Marling has made it very clear that she wishes the salacious gossips would disappear up their own bouzoukis, but in the mundanity of the folk world you suspect her pair bonding with the mandolin-toting Mumford has created a relationship perceived somewhat like that of the young Kennedy's; bright, beautiful and full of eternal promise. Certainly his own band are guilty of producing one of last year's best and most original British albums in Sigh No More, and although Alas, I Cannot Swim eventually succumbed in the Mercury stakes to Elbow, it contained more than enough promise to enable critics to file her newest release under 'Highly anticipated'.

Whether her audience believe it disappoints will be largely down to how they handle her obvious songwriting progression; the gap between sixteen and twenty as the singer has said is like a chasm in anyone's life. I Speak Because I Can accordingly finds her moving deftly from the politics of the self to that of gender, pondering femininity but not from a strictly feminist point of view. Given that either of these words would appear to be strictly career limiting for all but a few female artists, it's a logical but inestimably brave step for the fledgling career of a woman so young.

Inevitably where the instrumental backdrop is frequently little more than a gently sublime acoustic guitar the listener's attention spends more time focussing on the voice and the words; of the former I'd defy anyone to blindfold-guess that a tone with such richness, character and idiosyncrasy could belong to a woman who in the real world would barely have started university. Of the latter there is noticeably more by way of depth this time round. Slow burning opener 'Devil's Spoke', with banjo whirling furiously in the background even finds Marling indulging in the sins of the flesh, her alter-ego lustfully mouthing 'Eye to eye/Nose to nose/Ripping off each other's clothes'.

Elsewhere there is affection bordering on sentimentality on 'Goodbye England (Covered In Snow)', the singer proclaiming a love for our sceptred isle in 'I will come back here/Bring me back when I'm old/I want to lay here/forever in the cold'. Marling proceeds to turn the song into an eskimo kiss for her homeland, and with a sense of irony creates I Speak Because I Can's warmest moment. If the heart of that woman is overflowing with affection, that of the title's tracks narrator is smothered in bitterness; the opening line is the starkly matter-of-fact 'My husband left me last night' before spitting out a bitter verdict on the ethos of an abruptly terminated marriage: 'I cooked the meals while he got the life'.

If all of this is conveying the impression that 'I Speak Because I Can' is like a musical version of The Female Eunuch being played by a Sandy Denny tribute act, then please forgive me. In fact it's a record full of an energy and insight that's practically unique in modern entertainment circles. Whether this will convince any of the X-Factor crowd to turn away from the dark side is highly debatable, but the rewards for them are there, along with the listening challenge.

Andy Peterson


Laura Marling

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Laura Marling

Date of birth

1st February, 1990