Laura Marling, Once I Was an Eagle

Ashley Melzer

By Ashley Melzer

on 05.28.13 in Reviews

“Undine, make me more naïve,” sings Laura Marling a little more than halfway into her fourth studio album. In the old folklore, Undine was a water nymph that gave up immortality for the love of a man; her act of devotion was met with unfaithfulness and her love’s betrayal with a curse. On Marling’s expansive Once I Was An Eagle, this duality of blind trust and blind wrath mark out the twin poles of a journey that explores pure hope and pained confusion in equal measure.

Exploring pure hope and pained confused in equal measure

With Ethan Johns again along for production duties, Marling and her band venture deep into the brambles of love. The first several tracks flow together, drawing the listener into a familiar landscape of open chords, haunting cello, and stripped down percussion. The driving folk-rocker “Master Hunter,” meanwhile, borrows Dylan’s classic sneering kiss-off “It ain’t me, babe” — a pose that melts with the following song, the devastating “Little Love Caster.” Over muted flamenco guitar trills and spellbinding strings, Marling sings “I can’t seem to say I’d like you to stay,” a line that reads as much a tender confessional as casual cruelty.

“Love’s not easy,” Marling concludes on album closer, “Saved These Words.” If it’s a final verdict on Marling’s feelings on the subject, it’s a cautiously hopeful one. After struggling with trust (“I Was an Eagle”), the vagaries of timing (“Take the Night Off”), and regret (“You Know”), she settles on faith. “When you’re ready, into my arms come,” she sings, risks be damned.