Johnny Flynn, Laura Marling, Mumford & Sons, We/Or/Me Recommended Soundboard

When: Sat., Sept. 20, 8 p.m. 2008

Though I’m not crazy about Laura Marling’s delivery—she sometimes sings in awkward rushes of words, like way too many indie rockers of the Conor Oberst school—every time I listen to her debut, Alas I Cannot Swim (Astralwerks), her songs burrow deeper into my noggin. She has a rather wispy voice, which she burdens with unnecessary curlicues and an affected but thankfully sporadic vibrato, but there’s no denying she knows exactly what makes a melody work. And while this Englishwoman’s lyrics sometimes betray her age—she was 17 when she made the record, and she’s only 18 now—just as often she’ll find striking imagery to bring fresh vitality to familiar tales of heartbreak and dysfunction. On the exceptional “My Manic and I” she sings, “I’ll wander the streets avoiding them eats until the ring on my finger slips to the ground / A gift to the gutter, a gift to the city, the veins of which have broken me down.”

Young British stage actor Johnny Flynn recently released his debut full-length, A Larum (Lost Highway), in the States, and though it’s clear he admires the razor-sharp wordplay of early Bob Dylan, with his whimsical, distinctly British musicality he’s more like an unfocused Andrew Bird or a less imaginative Euros Childs. His band does a fine job sketching out a folk-rock sound that’s informed equally by the genres descended from English folk on both sides of the pond, but Flynn sounds a little too pleased with the mildly fantastical worlds he creates in his songs—which ultimately makes them less persuasive than they might be. —Peter Margasak

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