CMJ Day 1 – Laura Marling and The Antlers

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Arriving from the UK, from where it’s apparently a bitch to ship a cello, wise-beyond-her-years musician Laura Marling enraptured a packed house of believers. Tiny and girlish, but with a voice that’s not only lovely but alarmingly wise, Marling did not veer far from the shape of her songs in the live setting, though they were so bone chillingly rendered as to make attendance more than worth the effort. Opening with “Ghosts” and playing only that and “My Manic And I” off debut album “Alas I Cannot Swim,” she mostly presented tracks of her forthcoming follow-up, which she has just decided will be called “Speak Because I Can.”

New songs included one of the same name, as well as “Rambling Man” and “Hope In The Air,” to which the crowd responded enthusiastically. Marling’s draw is that, in addition to her deft guitar playing and fine songwriting skills, she’s got a voice that shocks in its gravity and takes hold with its strength, especially for one so young. Dressing in white and with a similarly colored light shining down upon her, she certainly looked angelic as she strummed, and as her voice cried out she retained a fixed, almost possessed gaze.  If she had played for any longer, the audience might  easily have been commanded to do her bidding.

Next came The Antlers, a band that clothes serious topics in both thoughtful tranquility and big, bright pop. One must be fine with leaping between moods to really enjoy them, which is made all the easier with Peter Silberman’s great voice paving the way, pleasing in that urgent, bratty sort of way and insanely capable of hitting the high notes live (and boy were they high). He and keys/effects guy Darby Cicci each had a tangle of pedals with which they engaged, and that really came to good use during moments of leg-kicking, frantic jamming. The Antlers break into melodies that are easy to latch onto, but just as often they float in thoughtful quietude or noisy experimentation – call them well-rounded, but they’re at their best when they really let loose.

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More CMJ coverage to come…

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