"Alas I Cannot Swim" is the debut album from one of Britain's most exciting new talents.
Twelve diverse tracks showcase Marling's versatile vocals and show little fear of leaving them exposed, while gentle acoustic guitar is the album's mainstay and folky string arrangements add new dimensions as songs develop. Released as a single, opening track "Ghosts" has already given listeners a taste of a confident record.
It's hard to believe that Laura Marling is a new artist who's just 18 years old - her voice is fresh and full of youthful vigour, yet it sounds as if it's been there for decades.
The Berkshire teenager is an untarnished musical treasure, and this is a debut informed by pop's past and fuelled by the nu folk present.
She composes startlingly mature lyrics reflecting on mortality - both "You're No God" and "My Manic And I" are stunningly simple explorations of the human condition, sung with crystal clarity yet warmly engaging.
The album is the culmination of what has been a prolific year of songwriting and creative maturity for Laura, from her debut EP, `"The London Town EP", released through Way Out West, to recent EP "My Manic & I", which saw her compared to a range of iconic female artists: Joni Mitchell, Sandy Denny, Kate Bush and PJ Harvey.
Warm folk arrangements of guitar, trumpets and brushed drums compliment songs that are beautifully measured, quirky but not overly so, smart but accessible - and all nodding towards a love of life with all its eccentricities.
Highlights are "Ghosts", "Night Terror", "Your Only Doll (Dora)" and the magnificent "Failure", a track that takes in everything from the futility of organised religion to fading fame. It's a lovely, special album.
With all the right influences not being worn on her musical sleeve, Laura Marling already sounds like the finished article.