Once I Was an Eagle

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Once I Was an Eagle
Laura Marling - Once I Was an Eagle.png
Studio album by Laura Marling
Released 27 May 2013 (2013-05-27)
Recorded 2012 at (Third Crow Studio in Bath, England)
Genre Folk music, folk rock
Length 63:20
Label Virgin
Producer Ethan Johns
Laura Marling chronology
A Creature I Don't Know
Once I Was an Eagle
Short Movie
Singles from Once I Was An Eagle
  1. "Master Hunter"
    Released: 16 April 2013 [1]

Once I Was an Eagle is the fourth studio album by British singer-songwriter Laura Marling, and was released on 27 May (US/Canada, 28 May) 2013.[2] "Master Hunter" was the album's first official single release.[3] It was nominated for the 2013 Mercury Prize. The record achieved unanimous critical acclaim, and has been cited as one of the best singer-songwriter records of the 21st century.


Background and production[edit]

Marling began debuting songs from Once I Was An Eagle, as early as mid-late 2011, before the release of her third album, A Creature I Don't Know. These songs included "I Was An Eagle", "Pray For Me" and "Master Hunter". The album, according to Marling, is the "plain[est]" album she has written. She has commented that it follows a central figure, who angrily shuns naïvety and love, and over the course of the album regains a "second naïvety". The album is written in three tunings, which mark the basic changes in emotion. The first half ("Take The Night Off" to "Devil's Resting Place") has a darker, more melancholic tone, whereas the second half ("Undine" to "Saved These Words") has a more upbeat and open tone, if not jubilant. Marling has stated that there is a greater cohesion to 'Once I Was An Eagle', in terms of themes and the development of the music. Many critics have noted that the first half feels more like a continuous idea, intensified by the first four songs ("Take The Night Off", "I Was An Eagle", "You Know" and "Breathe") which flow together as one.

Following the conclusion of her tour for her previous album, Marling began production on her fourth album. Unlike her previous three albums, she chose not to work with a band, and instead she enlisted the help of producer Ethan Johns and cellist, Ruth de Turberville, to assist with the album's production.[4] Marling recorded the album in 10 days at Three Crows studio in Bath, England. The guitar and vocals were recorded live in one take.[5] The album is considerably longer than her previous efforts - an issue that has divided the opinions of critics; some saying that the album "flies by", others noting that it would benefit from losing a couple of tracks.


The album was announced on 8 March 2013, along with a streaming of "Where Can I Go?" on Laura Marling's official SoundCloud page.[6]

Long time collaborators, Fred & Nick, created an 18 minute film called When Brave Bird Saved, written and directed by the pair, which was a "visual introduction" to the first four songs on the album, "Take The Night Off", "I Was an Eagle", "You Know" and "Breathe". The four songs seamlessly flow into one another, much like "Don't Ask Me Why" and "Salinas" on Marling's previous album, A Creature I Don't Know. The name from the film is derived from the titles of the last four songs on the album, When Were You Happy? (And How Long Has That Been), Love Be Brave, Little Bird, and Saved These Words.

"Master Hunter" premiered on Zane Lowe's BBC Radio 1 show on 16 April 2013.[7] Marling performed stripped-back versions of "Master Hunter" and "Once" on Later...with Jools Holland on 26 April 2013.[8][9]

To promote the album in North America, Marling embarked on a small tour leading up to the album's release.[10] "Where Can I Go?" was sent to North American Triple-A radio on 20 May 2013.[11]

One week prior to its official release, the album was available for streaming exclusively on The Guardian and NPR on 20 May 2013.[12][13]

Marling collaborated with Secret Cinema for 18 dates on an event known as the Eagle Ball. Reception was extremely positive, however many concert goers were turned away on grounds of identification and an age limit which was not made explicit before.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 86/100
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3.5/5 stars
American Songwriter 4.5/5 stars
The A.V. Club A-
Clash 9/10
Consequence of Sound 4/5 stars
The Daily Telegraph 5/5 stars
Exclaim! 8/10
The Fly 4.5/5 stars
The Guardian 4/5 stars
The Independent 5/5 stars
musicOMH 4.5/5 stars
NME 9/10
The Observer 4/5 stars
Paste 8.5/10
Pitchfork 8.1/10
PopMatters 9/10
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars
Slant 4.5/5 stars
Spin 8/10
This Is Fake DIY 9/10

The album received widespread critical acclaim from music critics. According to review aggregator website Metacritic, Once I Was an Eagle received an average score of 86 out of 100 based on 36 reviews, indicating universal acclaim.[14] Aggregating website Any Decent Music? assigned a rating of 8.3 based on 39 reviews.[15]

NME gave nine out of ten in a positive review, calling Marling's analysis of her relationship, "forensic", and saying, "Four albums into a remarkable career in which she's yet to put a foot wrong, Marling is still waiting for her chorus. Once I Was An Eagle sets a high bar; does anyone doubt she'll soar over it?".[16] Once I Was an Eagle received a very positive review from Clash Magazine, calling it a, "beautiful achievement", and confirming that Marling can, "sit side-by-side with PJ, Joni and Sandy", as one of the, "greatest singer-songwriters of both her generation and generations before it." The review concluded by saying that, "Without doubt, this is one of the folk albums of the year."[17] The Irish Times said that, "whether she is softly crooning over a plucked guitar or dabbling with organs and percussion for quietly cacophonous climaxes, Marling is never less than captivating."[18] Slant gave the album four and a half stars out of five, and called it, "close to a masterpiece, a heavenly composition with just enough hell to keep things from feeling too familiar."[19]

Matt Langham, writing for musicOMH, wrote that, "it is a work that cements her reputation as one of the country’s leading singer-songwriters. This, of course, is a standing that’s earned and age-blind", giving the record four and a half stars out of five. He went on to say, " The songs are seemingly plucked as easily as ripe fruit from a branch, but this belies their focus; it’s likely to be as powerful and unified a passage of music as you’ll hear all year."[20] This Is Fake DIY gave Once I Was An Eagle nine stars out of ten, and said, extremely positively, "Compare her to Bob Dylan all you like, but to issue a bold statement, Marling here proves herself, not as a product, but as an equal. Further down the line, it seems likely that on the emergence of another deceptively quiet young songstress with lyrics that stab and capture minds, the words on everyone’s lips will be ‘this sounds like Laura Marling’ instead."[21] The Daily Telegraph gave Marling five stars out of five, the reviewer, Neil McCormick finishing, "I can’t quite pin down this album and that is one of the most appealing things about it. Her songs are liquid and amorphous, prone to shape-shifting, rarely offering up an obvious verse and chorus symmetry, or easy interpretation. Marling is never likely to be a fixture of the pop charts. But Once I Was An Eagle is a masterpiece, and, at 23, she’s still only getting started."[22]

The Independent also awarded the album five stars, saying, "As well as her most lyrically mature work, it's also the most musically satisfying. Marling and producer Ethan Johns have opted for a sparse uniformity of guitars, hand percussion and cello."[23] The Guardian gave the album four out of five stars, saying that, "there are a couple of moments where she still feels like the sum total of a very tasteful record collection, where she struggles to make herself heard over the echoes of Joni Mitchell and Dylan's thin wild mercury sound. More often, though, she cuts through her influences, and rings out loud and clear; when she does, it's a very diverting sound indeed." The review positively highlighted the intensity and relentlessness of the first six-seven songs, and of the latter half said that, "the quality of the songs remains almost unerringly high".[24]

During an interview with Drowned In Sound in April 2015, Marling said of the record, "I’m really proud of that album. In fact, I think it might be the album I’ll be most proud of forever." [25]


Publication Rank List
American Songwriter 20 American Songwriter’s Top 50 Albums Of 2013[26]
The Guardian 17 The best albums of 2013[27]
Mojo 22 MOJO's Top 50 Albums of 2013[28]
musicOMH 80 musicOMH's Top 100 Albums Of 2013[29]
The New York Times 2 Top Ten Year-End List[30]
NME 9 NME's 50 Best Albums Of 2013[31]
No Ripcord 7 Top 50 Albums Of 2013[32]
NPR 33 Poll Results: Listeners Pick Their Favorite Albums of 2013[33]
PopMatters 32 The 75 Best Albums of 2013[34]
Pretty Much Amazing 14 PMA's 40 Best Albums of 2013[35]
Q 18 Q's 50 Albums of the Year[36]
Rolling Stone 20 50 Best Albums of 2013[37]
Slant 20 The 25 Best Albums of 2013[38]
Spin 33 Spin's 50 Best Albums of 2013[39]
Uncut 5 Uncut's Top 50 Albums of 2013[40]
Under the Radar 16 Under the Radar’s Top 125 Albums of 2013[41]
Uncut - Uncut's 50 best singer-songwriter albums [42]
Average 21.75 16 lists

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Laura Marling, except for "Interlude" by Ethan Johns[43]

No. Title Length
1. "Take the Night Off"   4:12
2. "I Was an Eagle"   4:21
3. "You Know"   2:30
4. "Breathe"   5:00
5. "Master Hunter"   3:16
6. "Little Love Caster"   5:52
7. "Devil's Resting Place"   3:14
8. "Interlude"   2:16
9. "Undine"   3:12
10. "Where Can I Go?"   3:40
11. "Once"   3:38
12. "Pray for Me"   5:05
13. "When Were You Happy? (And How Long Has That Been)"   3:53
14. "Love Be Brave"   3:04
15. "Little Bird"   5:40
16. "Saved These Words"   4:27


  • Laura Marling - voice, guitar
  • Ruth de Turberville - cello
  • Ethan Johns - drums, production
  • Rex Horan - Bass

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (2013) Peak
UK Albums (OCC)[44] 3
US Billboard 200[45] 49
US Folk Albums (Billboard)[46] 4
US Independent Albums (Billboard)[47] 7
US Top Rock Albums (Billboard)[48] 15
US Top Tastemaker Albums (Billboard)[49] 7
Australian Albums Chart[50] 12


  1. ^ "iTunes - Music - Master Hunter - Single by Laura Marling". Itunes.apple.com. 2013-04-16. Retrieved 2013-06-01. 
  2. ^ "Once I Was An Eagle Album Announcement". LauraMarling.com. Retrieved 8 March 2013. 
  3. ^ "Tijdlijnfoto's". Facebook. Retrieved 2013-06-01. 
  4. ^ "Stream Laura Marling’s new album Once I Was An Eagle". Consequence of Sound. 2013-05-20. Retrieved 2013-06-01. 
  5. ^ Bernard Zuel. "Singer-songwriter Laura Marling finds her voice". Smh.com.au. Retrieved 2013-06-01. 
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  8. ^ "LATER WITH JOOLS HOLLAND". LauraMarling.com. Retrieved 2 May 2013. 
  9. ^ "LATER WITH JOOLS HOLLAND PART II". LauraMarling.com. Retrieved 2 May 2013. 
  10. ^ "NORTH AMERICAN SPRING JAUNT". LauraMarling.com. Retrieved 2 May 2013. 
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  13. ^ Thompson, Stephen (2013-05-19). "First Listen: Laura Marling, 'Once I Was An Eagle'". NPR. Retrieved 2013-06-01. 
  14. ^ http://www.metacritic.com/music/once-i-was-an-eagle/laura-marling/critic-reviews
  15. ^ http://www.anydecentmusic.com/review/5510/Laura-Marling-Once-I-Was-An-Eagle.aspx
  16. ^ http://www.nme.com/reviews/laura-marling/14480
  17. ^ http://www.clashmusic.com/reviews/laura-marling-once-i-was-an-eagle
  18. ^ http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/music/laura-marling-once-i-was-an-eagle-1.1394172
  19. ^ http://www.slantmagazine.com/music/review/laura-marling-once-i-was-an-eagle#When:13:44:21Z
  20. ^ http://www.musicomh.com/reviews/albums/laura-marling-once-i-was-an-eagle
  21. ^ http://www.thisisfakediy.co.uk/articles/albums/laura-marling-once-i-was-an-eagle/
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  23. ^ The Independent (London) http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/reviews/album-review-laura-marling-once-i-was-an-eagle-virgin-8629367.html.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  24. ^ http://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/may/23/laura-marling-once-eagle-review
  25. ^ http://drownedinsound.com/in_depth/4148884-la-ldn-story--laura-marling Drowned In Sound, 9th April 2015, LA-LDN Story: Laura Marling
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  28. ^ Mojo Staff (2 December 2013). "MOJO’s Top 50 Albums Of 2013 Unveiled". Mojo. Retrieved 14 December 2013. 
  29. ^ musicOMH (9 December 2013). "musicOMH's Top 100 Albums Of 2013: Full List and Playlist". musicOMH. Retrieved 14 December 2013. 
  30. ^ Pareles, Jon (13 December 2013). "Lorde Rules a Year-End List". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 December 2013. 
  31. ^ NME (26 November 2013). "Pictures of NME's 50 Best Albums Of 2013". NME. Retrieved 14 December 2013. 
  32. ^ No Ripcord Staff (24 December 2013). "Top 50 Albums Of 2013 (Part Two)". No Ripcord. Retrieved 27 December 2013. 
  33. ^ NPR Listeners (12 December 2013). "Poll Results: listners Pick Their Favorite Albums of 2013". NPR. Retrieved 29 December 2013. 
  34. ^ PopMatters Staff (26 December 2013). "The 75 Best Albums of 2013". PopMatters. Retrieved 29 December 2013. 
  35. ^ Staff (13 December 2013). "PMA's 40 Best Albums of 2013". Pretty Much Amazing. Retrieved 18 December 2013. 
  36. ^ Q (29 November 2013). "Q Magazine's Top 50 Albums of 2013". Album of the Year. Retrieved 14 December 2013. 
  37. ^ Rolling Stone (2 December 2013). "50 Best Albums of 2013; Laura Marling, "Once I Was An Eagle"". Jann Wenner. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  38. ^ Slant Staff (12 December 2013). "The 25 Best Albums of 2013:". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 14 December 2013. 
  39. ^ Aaron, Charles (2 December 2013). "Laura Marling, Once I Was an Eagle (Virgin) - SPIN's 50 Best Albums of 2013". SPIN. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  40. ^ Uncut (12 December 2013). "Uncut's Top 50 Albums of 2013". Album of the Year. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  41. ^ Redfern, Mark (23 December 2013). "Under the Radar’s Top 125 Albums of 2013". Under the Radar. Retrieved 25 December 2013. 
  42. ^ http://www.uncut.co.uk/features/uncuts-50-best-singer-songwriter-albums-68925
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  46. ^ "Laura Marling – Chart history" Billboard Folk Albums for Laura Marling.
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