“Good for their age” is an expression often bandied about in the discussion of singer-songwriters in the 18 to 25 age bracket, and perhaps with good reason. Most people spend the transitory period into adulthood drinking, fornicating, and wondering what they’re going to do for the next 60 years or so, whilst desperately clinging to the safety net of childhood as it unravels with increasing rapidity. A handful of these people embark on careers in the music industry. Talent is widely considered directly proportional to age, and those wayward youths who manage to get their negligible Gen-Y attention spans focused enough to smash out a couple of albums are, accordingly, clapped on the back and told “It’s good…for your age.”

Laura Marling is 23, and a two-time Mercury Prize nominee. She’s never just been “good for her age.”

Let’s put it in perspective. British chanteuse Marling is the same age as another female songwriter often relegated to the “good for her age” category: American country starlet, Taylor Swift. And from an objective standpoint, the pair has quite a lot in common. Both have blonde hair; both carved a niche for themselves in their respective musical scenes before achieving solo recognition. Both have four studio albums under their respective belts, mostly concerned with matters of heartbreak. For female listeners, they’re avenging angels: golden-haired, guitar-wielding superheroes bringing the men who have wronged them to justice. But whilst Swift’s success lies in the “Dear Diary” formula of her songs, and the shameless specificity of her lyrics, Marling’s is in her abilities as a poet: her ability to weave surreal imagery and raw emotion into a complex tapestry of modern womanhood. And as Swift’s relatable everywoman act grows more and more grating, Marling only becomes more cerebral, more enigmatic, and more compelling as she ages.

Eagle isn’t just a breakup album in the traditional sense: it’s a concept album, of sorts. There’s a linear narrative, with each song a chapter in a book, rich with angst and bitterness and all the ugly feelings that follow in the aftermath of a relationship breakdown. Marling might speak in riddles, but the truth at the heart of them is painfully felt.

On her last effort, 2011’s A Creature I Don’t Know, Marling ventured outside of her comfort zone, setting aside her endlessly dexterous finger-picking and showing herself to be sonically adventurous. Here, she seems to have truly hit her stride: the twangy guitar is still there, but less pretty, and when the organ pops up in the middle of the album, it lends to irresistible comparison to folk music’s most revered icon (guess who?) The ambiguity of Marling’s role in the story- narrator, character, author- adds to the intrigue. On several tracks, she bemoans the fate of a girl named Rosie, a naïve and scared young woman; on others, she seems to write from her perspective. On the final track- the rapturous ‘Saved These Words’- she finds a strange sense of closure. “He was my next verse,” she spits of her former lover, a cutting acknowledgement of wasted time and desire to pack up and move on. It might not be the greatest line in the history of folk music, but at the moment, it’s one of my favourites.

Is there a stand out track? A few come to mind, but the album’s main strength lies in its cohesiveness, the way each song seamlessly spills over into the next one. At 16 tracks long, it’s never too much to listen to, and at just over an hour long, it’s almost like listening to one, continuous symphony. If I had to pick one, it’d be ‘Love Be Brave,’ but when they’re all this good, it’s unfair to set one song apart.

Recent years have seen the resurgence of the faux-folk movement: the ubiquity of bands such as Mumford and Sons, The Lumineers and other similarly forgettable outfits had all but turned me off the genre. But there’s nothing quaint about Laura Marling. The folksiness isn’t a pretension, but a tool to great storytelling, in the vein of Joni Mitchell, and yes, Bob Dylan himself. Four albums in, and I’d say she’s more than proved herself: she is one of the greats, and deserves to be ranked alongside them, regardless of her age. Anybody who thinks she's in the same ballpark as Taylor Swift, or just about anybody else making music at the moment, is simply bonkers.

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