Ranking Laura Marling’s albums in order of greatness
Laura Marling is a sensation. When she fully arrived on the music industry around 2006, the singer came as part of the “nu-folk” explosion that rode into towns alongside the indie explosion. Marling and her contemporaries were the nourishing reprieves from bands like the Klaxons and Hadouken who had now taken up permanent residence in the student digs around the country. Naturally, she quickly grew out of that scene.
In fact, despite being constantly dumped into the same category as Noah & The Whale et al., Marling was never in the same class. Instead, the singer-songwriter crafted the kind of music that makes people double-check the artist isn’t secretly Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell’s illegitimate child. Emerging as one of the most unique and potent songwriters of her generation, we thought we’d take a look back at her already impressive discography.
Having released her debut album Alas I Cannot Swim back in 2008, Marling has grown into a legendary songwriter in front of our eyes. Having released two stunning records by the age of 20, the singer has always been revered by critics and fans alike, who not only see her authentic self portrayed in interviews and conversations but are now welcomed into her world through her music too.
Unlike some of her contemporaries, Marling’s impression on music has been far larger than a mere flash in the pan. Marling’s latest album, Songs for Our Daughter, was nominated for a Mercury music prize — a competition she’s more than familiar with — and proved that she’s only growing further as an artist. Countless Brit Award nominations point to her standing in the British pantheon of music but it is her albums that confirm it.
Below, we’re ranking Laura Marling’s albums in order of greatness.
Laura Marling albums from worst to best:
A Creature I Don’t Know (2011)
There’s a fairly good argument to be had that the very creature in the title of Laura Marling’s third album is a reference to herself. She’d created two pulsating indie-folk albums by the age of 20 and had already amassed a serious amount of fans and followers by the time of this release.
While some of the albums saw the singer crack the door ajar to let in her audience for a private viewing of her most personal feelings, this album is perhaps the record where Marling kept us all at a distance.
As such, most of the album, though certainly pleasant, is a little cold. ‘Don’t Ask Me Why’ isn’t just the best song on the album, but perhaps the perfect song to typify the record as a whole.
Short Movie (2015)
2015 saw Marling kick things up a notch and, like Bob Dylan before her, ditch her folk roots and plug in her electric guitar. It made for one of her most open albums of the lot. The record hangs on this change of instrumentation and sees Marling languishing in the hazy spaces she creates with it.
In fact, one could easily argue, this is the first time we truly got to see Laura Marling as a person as well as an artist, Prior to this album Marling had previously written timeless pieces and now she was cutting out a bit of her soul for the fans at home.
The only real issue with Short Movie, and why it’s low on our list, is that many of the themes and theories explained within the tracklisting mirror that of her previous release Once I Was An Eagle.
I Speak Because I Can (2010)
Considering Laura Marling’s position as a still comparatively young songwriter, it is truly impressive to look back at her work. Here, as we look back at the record we’re determining as below the singer’s average, we’ve got a truly sensational album. One that not only extrapolated the themes of Marling’s debut but, perhaps, solidified them.
Her writing is as literary and captivating as ever and, although it was only her sophomore record, Marling displays the technique, guile and classic potency of an artist who had been crafting their tunes for decades.
There’s no doubt that this record shines brightly among her work and should be rightly regarded as the LP which saw the girl from her debut grow into a woman. And a formidable, extremely talented one, at that.
Once I Was An Eagle (2013)
Approaching this record, Marling had quickly become a popular name across the music industry. Her classic songwriting style had outgrown the indie explosion she had been a part of.
She was even nominated twice in the previous two years for the ‘Best Female’ Brit Award (one which she won in 2011) and was always flitting around the Mercury music prize shortlist. Once I Was An Eagle proved to be another dark folk classic, mixing whimsical sounds with heartfelt gritty lyrics and kept her impeccable record of impeccable records going.
The 2013 record saw Marling stay true to her style and deliver sixteen tracks of comprehensive love-song assessment but it also came packed with a return to the wild. Using tribal drums and unusual arrangements Marling showed that she was continuing to grow as a person, songwriter and a truly gifted lyricist, describing ordinary life in extraordinary heartfelt detail. Check out ‘Save These Words’ for the album’s best song.
Semper Femina (2017)
Following 2015’s Short Movie, Marling teamed up with Blake Mills to deliver a brand new record. If her new album was to prove anything it was that Laura Marling hadn’t lost her incredible eye for songwriting. In this case, consider the point well and truly proven.
Semper Femina was another masterclass in subtlety from Marling. Within the record, she showcased the ability to write veracious and vociferous music capable of rousing synapses and rounding up emotions in indie-folk bite-size pieces.
It appeared as another job well done from a woman so comfortable in her own musical skin. What we didn’t know was that Semper Femina was set to be a stepping stone for the singer for her most introspective and purely honest work. The standout song ‘The Valley’ should be listened to at every turn.
Alas I Cannot Swim (2008)
Marling arrived on the scene with a delicate message and a vocal that left everybody dreaming. During a period where indie-lads spilt apple sours over their trilbys, Marling appeared as if from a dream to refresh our soul with her seminal album Alas, I Cannot Swim. At only 18 when she released her debut LP, the ethereal image of the singer has loomed over her entire career — but what’s wrong with that?
Of course, as artists, we are always looking for the next step forward and craning one’s neck back to the start can seem at best frivolous and at worst narcissistic. However, Marling’s debut album is of the highest quality. She may have been part of the indie explosion but hers was a career destined to outlive any genre. Songs like ‘Ghosts’ and ‘My Manic and I’ not only confirmed what Marling’s break out song ‘New Romantic’ promised — a gifted singer-songwriter.
This is what makes Alas I Cannot Swim so affecting in 2020 and so damn impressive back in 2008 when it was released. Marling was so incredibly young for such a classic songwriting style. She exuded permanence from the very beginning and although for her, it may not have felt like an easy ride from her debut LP to her current musical standing, for those of us who have joined the journey, the legendary destination was always on course.
Song For Our Daughter (2020)
The follow-up to 2017’s Semper Femina was always going to be difficult but, somehow, Marling has managed to gather every note of what has made her a landmark artist and deliver it in an inspiringly honest new way. Song For Our Daughter is the mark of an artist truly working from within.
Six albums and a decade of critical acclaim and Marling is now far wiser and more astute. She’s evolved from the incandescent imagery and was instead rooted in gravity. Song For Our Daughter was the first record Marling had written away from the road and it really shows. Now firmly rooted in London with her family after various location changes, it feels as though Marling has truly found her grounding. She says herself that she is “at a very comfortable place in my life.”
The album is one of Marling’s most densely luscious sonically—perhaps even the most ‘complete’ in her repertoire. The real trick with Song For Our Daughter is how she manages to marry this evolution of sound with her reconnection with herself.
Without doubt, Song For Our Daughter is another triumph for Marling. The singer shared an album that, like so many sunrises on cold grey mornings, brings both colour and warmth to an otherwise clouded situation. On this album, Marling has created her most defining album… so far.