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Alas I Cannot Swim

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Alas I Cannot Swim album cover
Old Stone
Tap At My Window
You're No God
Cross Your Fingers
Crawled Out Of The Sea (Interlude)
My Manic And I
Night Terror
The Captain And The Hourglass
Your Only Doll (Dora)
Album Information

Total Tracks: 12   Total Length: 38:27

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Wondering Sound

Review 69

Laura Leebove

Managing Editor

Laura Leebove is a Michigan-born, Brooklyn-based writer, editor, blogger, and voracious consumer of media, food, and music. She's also the home cook behind the

Laura Marling, Alas I Cannot Swim
2011 | Label: Ribbon Music / Domino Recording Co

In “Ghosts,” the opening track of Laura Marling’s debut LP, the British songstress pleads, “Lover, please, do not fall to your knees/ It’s not like I believe in everlasting love.” She says it in response to a guy who’s still getting over the girls (“ghosts”) who broke his heart. Alas, I Cannot Swim has plenty of songs about past loves — comforting them (“Failure”), pushing them away (“Old Stone”) or being haunted by them (“Shine”).… read more »

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They Say All Music Guide

Due to her youth (16 when she first hit Myspace, 17 when signed to an imprint of EMI, and 18 when her debut album came out), perky-cute looks and extremely British diction, singer/songwriter Laura Marling got a lot of comparisons to Lily Allen in her early buzz, but the quietly compelling Alas I Cannot Swim is not at all a frothy pop confection. A folk-tinged AAA pop record based on Marling’s alluringly husky voice and graceful acoustic guitar, Alas I Cannot Swim would be more aptly compared to the likes of Feist, Keren Ann, or Regina Spektor. (In the album’s press kit, Marling reveals her primary influence to be Bonnie “Prince” Billy, which also seems appropriate.) Although not to draw too forbidding a comparison, opening track and first single “Ghosts” is most strongly reminiscent of Joni Mitchell circa For the Roses, both in Marling’s expressive vocal phrasing and the expert shifts in the arrangement between solo acoustic passages and full-band sections, not to mention an excellently deployed string section. That old-school ’70s singer/songwriter vibe predominates throughout the album, in fact. There’s one straight-up pop song here, the deceptively chipper-sounding “Cross Your Fingers” (“…hold your toes/We’re all gonna die when the building blows” continues the sweetly sung chorus), but aside from that, Alas I Cannot Swim is the kind of album that takes a couple of listens for its charms to completely sink in. Rather than swath every track in prominent, ear-grabbing hooks, Marling and producer Charlie Fink choose to keep the decorations off in the distance on songs like “The Captain and Hourglass,” where swells of pedal steel stay buried deep in the mix under Marling’s hypnotic guitar line and quietly insistent vocals. There’s every chance that Laura Marling will get lost in the shuffle as the unexpected commercial success of Feist’s The Reminder leads major labels to unleash hordes of similarly talented female singer/songwriters, but Alas I Cannot Swim is far better than the average coffee house-endorsed girly pop. – Stewart Mason

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