If I’m honest, I’m still in love with I Speak Because I Can. The thought of another Marling masterpiece is a tad overwhelming, as I can still listen to ‘Goodbye England’ with the same fervour as the first time I heard it.
So, after a quick lie down and some gin, I was ready to listen to Marling’s third album, and what an album it is. A Creature I Don’t Know seems to build on I Speak Because I Can and Alas I Cannot Swim: Marling plays with a fusion, and the album is a synthesis of many different styles. I also think it cuts deeper, and is more mature than her previous albums, which is unsurprising seeing as Marling has herself grown from the 16-year-old she once was. There are the obvious Bob Dylan comparisons to make, and I think Marling is in some part responsible for yet another folk revival; I would even suggest that she has made folk ‘cool’ again for the indie-type scenesters out there.
Many critics seem to think this album is more cryptic than ever, and it is tempting to agree. However, there appear to be glimpses into Marling’s mind in such songs as ‘Night After Night’, for example. If we are to believe Wikipedia, this song in part reveals her premature fear of death. However, this is presuming she is not slipping into the anti-folk genre, populated by artists such as Regina Spektor, where lyrics are not entirely to do with oneself. Although that is assuming we ignore the seemingly blatant connotations of the eponymous album title. Humph.
Climbing through Marling’s lyrical webs, I seem to find a disturbingly clear message of sadness. It is undeniably deep, and Marling manages to tap into a fear and sadness in all of us when you truly listen to her. There are so many things you could analyse on this album, but does it really need overanalysing? I have decided to rattle through the interesting points: ‘The Muse’ — Jools Holland piano reminiscent, country-esque quirks; ‘I Was Just a Card’ — a vocal beginning unlike Marling’s sorrowful voice, more poppy, not a fan — brassy, alarming; ‘Don’t Ask Me’ — Russian, folky, gypsy elements; ‘Salinas’ — bluesy, prominent electric guitar, “Will I ever see heaven again”; ‘Night After Night’ — some major to minor instability reflecting her mood, and perhaps the instability of life; ‘The Beast’ — mildly bluesy, electric guitar riffs remnant of deliciously dirty rock songs; ‘Sophia’ — “Where I’ve been lately is no concern of yours/Who’s been touching my skin”, bitter and cynical counteracted with cheerful guitar strumming and chirpy choral singing, then suddenly I’m at a barndance jigging to ‘Cotton-Eyed Joe’ and I have no idea how I got here;
‘My Friends’ — “Why are you always so sad/Why do I not understand”, questioning, wistful, a feeling of uselessness and guilt; ‘Rest in Bed’ — Spanish guitar flavourings; ‘All My Rage’ — Bobby Shaftoe-esque, put your sea legs on, reminds me of ‘Sir Patrick Spens’ (Google it).
Summary: Marling manages to develop as an artist while at the same time becoming more accessible and popular to the mass market — pleasing both original Marling fans, and newcomers. I love her: the end.