Monday, February 11, 2008


Last weekend I totally fell in love with Laura Marling. I was very excited about her gig at Soho Revue Bar, which sold out in a couple of days without any publicity. She took to the stage all low key and tuned up her guitar, which looked enormous against her slight frame. She greeted the crowd with a nervous, posh-ish estuary English 'hello' and could have been just any eighteen year old girl trying her luck on stage. As soon as she opened her mouth to sing, any doubts were instantly dispelled. Her warm, rich, fragile voice defied her appearance and demeanour; all impressions of a happy-go-lucky teenager were bulldozed by the sheer dark emotional wisdom and experience evoked through the material played in this short set.

Laura Marling's concentration when singing is so intense that she does not move nor make eye contact. She looks possessed as she sings, eyes trained on something in the middle-distance, foot tapping nervously. It's as though focusing all her energy on the emotion of each songs consumes her. She had an excellently dapper band with her, playing fiddle, ukelele, accordian, guitar and bass, bringing out the full Celtic skeletons of her songs. Clearly not expecting the crowd to be so enthusiastic, she hadn't prepared an encore and decided not to play old favourites like New Romantic or London Town. Instead she played a cover of a Kimya Dawson song, which endeared her to me even more.

I had the songs swimming round my head all weekend and I couldn't wait for her album to arrive in the post. On Sunday I went to see Noah and the Whale in Chiswick. It transpired that this would be one of Laura's last few times playing with the band, which is a shame. Noah and the Whale are excellent - the grandiose, eccentric instrumentation of Arcade Fire et al, Celtic influences and London urchiny vocals. Annoyingly, they are all about eighteen years old too. I didn't think the time when my favourite artists were younger than me would come so soon.

Laura stood out of the limelight and NATW came across very much as a unit, playing their soaring, energetic and frantic to the happy but slightly dozy Sunday night West London crowd. They finished on my favourite song, Rocks and Daggers, which I'd been jigging away to all day with my friend Afsi. I saw Noah and the Whale for the first time supporting Feist in July last year. They'd made me and all my friends want to pick up our various instruments and form a band and I got that exact same feeling seeing them again. They are currently touring the UK as part of the Young and Lost tour. You should definitely see them.

As if I hadn't had enough of that whole scene by Monday, I ventured over to Rough Trade West to see Laura Marling do a mini-gig to launch her amazing song box. The song box is her ingenious way of packaging her album, Alas I Cannot Swim in an oversize, colour ful box, with little mementos which relate to each song on the album. You also get a voucher to claim a ticket for her tour - so only people with this nice big song box can go! It's Laura's way of making people listen to CDs and thinking about the content, rather than just ripping the songs onto an mp3 player and listening to the music through bad headphones. Great idea.

The Rough Trade gig was more of the same very, very good stuff. Rough Trade shops give me the musical thrill of libraries. I like to think of them, steeped in history, smelling of old records, dust, and the staff as mines of knowledge doing their job for the love of it. I didn't hang around to get anything signed, I was still waiting for my song box to arrive in the post from Amazon and, besides, I never know what to say to musicians I admire anymore; too self-conscious.

The album is amazing. Absolutely the best thing I've heard for ages and ages. It unravels more with each listen. I want every song to be at least another 340984985 minutes long. Still a few song boxes left on amazon - get one while you can!

posted by Robbie de Santos at 2/11/2008 08:57:00 pm


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