I listened to this a couple of times yesterday afternoon, as if somehow mentally preparing myself for the shitty evening I didn’t know I was going to have, and once again just now. At her best (which is half of this EP), Laura Marling is the new Joni Mitchell, wandering the city streets with her guitar and letting everyone know that she’s been through what they’ve been through with some occasionally exceptionally great lyrics. The last two songs ain’t much though “Typical” has some nice choruses (“I gave up morals when I took up you” is ambiguously romantic or maybe the other way around); “My Manic and I” doesn’t have the tune that the surrounding three songs have, and though its arrangement is slightly more ambitious than the opener and closer, it ain’t enough.
But the first two songs are great. “New Romantic” (released as her first single) has some of her best lyrics: “And I never meant to hurt you when I wrote you ten love songs,” “And I think he knew where I was going ’cause he put Ryan Adams on / ’cause I think he thinks it makes me weak, but it only ever makes me strong,” “If God could make the perfect girl, for me it would be you / And my God told me not to tell about how much do you love your fella?” and the way she links the second and third verses, “That guy that I could never get, ’cause his girlfriend was pretty fit” to “Maybe I should give up, give in / Give up trying to be thin.” The arrangement is skeletal and the chord progression is simple, so your attention is pulled to those lyrics. My favorite moment is the way she sings “Give up and turn into my mother / God knows I love her.” By contrast, “Night Terror” (released later as a single and the lead song from a different EP) is much more melodic and less wordy, and with a stronger arrangement. Every instance where she sings “Oh fight me,” you can picture a world-weary and thin woman standing up for herself (against her demons; against other people – doesn’t matter), and inspiring you to do the same. If only it wasn’t so hard all the time.
EDIT (March 22, 2016): bumping to an ‘A’; anything less does the first two songs here a disservice to how much the first two songs here mean to me.