13 for ’13: Laura Marling – Master Hunter

Part 13 of a 13 song recap of my 2013 in no particular order

I didn’t really have any time for Laura Marling until this year. I’m willing to admit that was due to some irrational prejudices of mine. Let’s face it – there aren’t many British singer songwriters out there at the moment who don’t sound like pale imitations of their American influences. And then there’s that whole loose Mumford and Sons connection which soured her by association in my eyes. Sure, you should always take something on it’s own terms; I can’t really justify my ignoring of her obvious talents. But for me when it comes to music there’s something to be said for irrational prejudices – there’s just so damn much of it you can drive yourself crazy trying to listen to and honestly evaluate everything that’s worthy of the time. For, after all, there is only so much time to go around – especially for those of us with Proper Jobs who can’t get away with doing this shit for a living. Anything that cuts down the number of things I’d like to listen to but can’t fit into the day is welcome. So I’d mentally filed Laura Marling under that same pseudo-twee nonsense space Mumford occupy and was content to ignore her. Even after watching a brilliant Daniel Kitson set in which he gushed overAlas I Cannot Swim, citing it as a reason to live at the end of a show preoccupied with death, I refused to change my stance (but then Kitson, god love him, does listen to an awful lot of samey twee indie).

But then, half cut on wine at 2am one fateful Friday night a friend of mine insisted I watch her performance of Master Hunter on Later with Jools Holland.  We were trading links and it was his turn so I figured I’d give her a moment to change my mind. Not that I would of course – I’m a stubborn man who know what he likes and all that. I’d decreed her unworthy of my oh so valuable headspace. And yet…I fell in love. A few chords and a slight swagger was all it took. “Great,” I thought, “another fucking great songwriter I have to pay attention to. Brilliant.”

I was expecting tweeness, something my threshold for varies but is rarely all that high. I mean, I loved Moonrise Kingdom, the most twee film from Johnny Twee himself, Wes Anderson, and I’ve spent a chunk of this week listening to Jeffrey Lewis’ Chelsea Hotel Oral Sex Song as part of my current obsession’s spotify playlist. I guess if I’m honest with myself I can accept twee more if it comes with an American accent. Maybe growing up in the grim North has soured me to the idea of overly privileged southerners dressing like farmers and playing banjos. I dunno – I’ll ask my therapist. Anyhow, I was not expecting this petite blond girl to be singing all battle weary and cold, swatting away potential admirers like bothersome flies. “You want a woman cause you want to be saved/Well I’ll tell you that I got a little of a lot on my plate.” That’s as devastating a put down to any boy looking for a madonna figure to worship as you’re gonna find, reminiscent of that speech in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind that Clementine delivers to Joel in the bookstore somewhere in the caverns of his memory, “Too many guys think I’m a concept, or I complete them, or I’m gonna make them alive. But I’m just a fucked-up girl who’s lookin’ for my own peace of mind; don’t assign me yours.” Only more dismissive – she’s not even interested in all that. Why would she be?

She wields her guitar like a shield – the song has a bluesy strut to it that oozes confidence and general bad-assery, if you’ll permit so asinine a phrase. It’s a perfect marriage of lyrics and music, an effortlessly executed concept. It caps off a 5 song suite that kicks off Once I was an Eagle, and if the album never quite reaches the peak of that opening gambit again it’s due to some sky high bar setting rather than a paucity of quality.

That moment sat in front of a PC with blackened red wine teeth having my assumptions smashed up and thrown back in my face was thrilling and I can’t wait to see what she can do next. Next time around I’m on board from the get go.

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