Music Fix: Laura Marling’s Love Triangle, The Ethics of Altered Zones


Back in April, Laura Marling released her second album, I Speak Because I Can [buy it on itunes] I was really excited, wrote about it in a few Audiostraddle Weekly’s and then… I just didn’t listen to it. I finally gave it a spin this past weekend and despite it being 4 months old, I’m writing about it now.

First, allow me to shed light on the Laura Marling-Noah & The WhaleMumford & Sons love triangle that you may or may not be aware of. Young Laura Marling dated Charlie Fink, lead singer of Noah & The Whale back in 2007-2008. (Watch this adorable Black Cab Sessions performance with just the two of them.) When their schedules allowed, Marling sang and performed with Noah & the Whale while they served as her backing band. Fink even produced Marling’s first album. But in 2008, after each released their respective debuts (Marling’s Alas I Cannot Swim and Noah & The Whale’s Peaceful, The World Lay Me Down), Marling and Fink embarked on their respective tours. Her new backing band was – can you guess? – Mumford & Sons, led by Marcus Mumford. Shortly after, Marling started dating Mumford, thereby breaking poor Charlie Fink’s heart.

Why did I waste your time with that soap opera? Trust me, Autostraddlers. I have a reason. Following the aftermath and nursing the heartbreak and devastation of losing Marling, Fink poured his soul into the songs of Noah & the Whale’s second record, my favorite album of 2009, the spectacular The First Days of Spring. Fink’s feelings were out there for the world to see, and it seemed as if he had the last word. Now, I see that he didn’t.

On Marling’s 2010 release, I Speak Because I Can , she strikes back with “Blackberry Stone.” Watch an early performance of the song with current beau Marcus Mumford below:

There’s no ambiguity here: Her lyrics directly reference Noah & The Whale’s “Hold My Hand As I’m Lowered.” And it’s beautiful! I’m completely sucked in by the song and the drama behind it. Any other break-ups that have inspired songs you love? Tell us about them!

Read Stereogum’s interview with Laura Marling about the song and download a B-side demo here. You can also read a review of I Speak Because I Can at The Guardian UK.


Pitchfork, the pseudo-pretentious music website considered mandatory reading by some, has launched Altered Zones, “a team of 14 music blogs dedicated to exploring these emerging musical worlds, traversing genres from psych and drone to electronic and underground pop,” according to their website. We’re talking crazy obscure stuff here, like limited release cassette tapes. It seems harmless enough, even good, but the music blogosphere is buzzing and it’s not because everyone is excited.

Altered Zones is essentially a blog aggregator. It sifts through content from 14 blogs hand-picked by Pitchfork and collects blog posts at one, convenient website.

So what’s the problem here? I didn’t see it at first, either. After all, Pitchfork is paying these bloggers for their content. But after reading Leor Galil’s post at True/Slant, I see the problem Altered Zones poses. Galil says:

“By aggregating a select number of blogs into a single site and using their significant pull in the music world, Pitchfork’s Altered Zones could cut music listeners’ web browsing down to size. With everything supposedly worth listening to available on a single site, why would you want to even think of exploring elsewhere?”

The folks at Impose Magazine take it a step further and look at revenue streams. Although Altered Zones is currently ad-free, there are plans to open it to advertising in the future. Impose Magazine says they “see it as one more step towards homogenizing the streams of music industry straight back towards the few companies who currently control the pipelines.”

I’m on fence about Altered Zones, but for now, I’ll read it with a healthy dose of suspicion. Do you think the music blogosphere is reacting too critically? Do you read any of the blogs featured on Altered Zones? Let us know in the comments.

Read the rest of Leor Galil’s thoughts on Altered Zones at True/Slant.

Read Impose Magazine’s full take on Altered Zones at their website.


M.I.A. is now streaming MAYA, her upcoming album due out next week, at her MySpace. Although a large part of the album smacks of frantic dissonance a la “Born Free,” there is some melody to go around. It’s safe to say, though, that unless someone remixes the sh*t out of one of these tracks, there’s no “Paper Planes 2.0″ to be found. Also, she hates YouTube, Google and the iPhone. Read more about it at TechCrunch.


After announcing earlier cancellations of Lilith Fair’s Phoenix and Nashville dates, festival organizers have slashed 10 more dates. Affected cities include Salt Lake City, Montreal, Raleigh, Charlotte, West Palm Beach, Tampa, Birmingham, Austin, Houston, and Dallas. Lilith Fair isn’t alone in the summer tour blues. Limp Bizkit and Christina Aguilera have also cancelled tours due to poor sales. Read more about Lilith Fair cancellations at Spinner.

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Jess G.

Jess is a writer/producer with a knack for audio and online production. She grew up in California and now lives in Washington, DC, where she recently graduated from Georgetown University. Jess' jacket collection is obscenely large, and so is her music library. In her spare time, Jess enjoys riding her bike in the city, blogging, writing songs, and eating good food.

Jess has written 44 articles for us.


  1. I Speak Because I Can is a great album i would say, all the 10 tracks i think were amazing. It was the second album from Laura i think.

  2. Pitchfork launching Altered Zones is kind of like watching a Wal-Mart pop up in a cool downtown area where there was only little stores before – you might not like it, but it is almost inevitable that it would happen, one day.

    And while I get why others are concerned, I do not think it will stop people from seeking out and searching for new music/bands/labels/so forth on as many blogs as they can. I follow so many at the moment and they all share amongst one another – it’s already a web. Altered Zones could end up being a starting point for people – like a gateway to all the music blogs out there.

    I’m going to hold back on condemning. At least for now. See how it goes and all that… But I’m more interested in the picture for Altered Zones. It is vaguely like that Dharma Initiative thing from ‘Lost’. Maybe I should be more freaked out than I am? ;)

  3. I speak because I can…

    Audiostraddle is making me a very cash poor person. But. My ears are happy.

    Thanks for the review. Of course I’m buying the album.

  4. If Altered Zones plays out anything like Hype Machine, I see no real problem with it. Even if you consider the point of browsing consolidation to actually listen to the tracks, you can only read the posts about them and download the mp3’s by going to the blogs themselves. And every song corresponds to a linked post.

    Anyway thanks for the heads on AZ. I have long loved Pitchfork and hadn’t heard about this just yet! Exciting!

    And the video you posted… WOW! @ about two minutes in.

    • I don’t think Altered Zones will play out like Hype Machine. (And I’m saying this as someone not in the uber skeptical camp for AZ). I use Hype Machine like you do, more like an .mp3 discovery source and I only click through to download the tracks.

      AZ seems to be more about the opinion. Anywho… those are my thoughts.

      Also, I’m sad that when I click on Hype Machine’s most popular tracks, it’s like 20 remixes of the same song :(

      • Oh, YES. I too get annoyed at the overabundance of remixes on Hype Machine at times.

        It’ll be interesting to see how perhaps AZ will dominate most music blogs’ opinions then. But honestly, I think there will always be a vast sea of bloggers willing to offer their own unique opinions and descriptions regardless of what the consensus says.

  5. “blackberry stone” is one of my favorites by laura marling, but i had no idea that it was a jab at charlie fink! i was also unaware of her affiliation with mumford. interesting.

  6. Thanks for the MIA heads up! I just got my new Senn headphones and I am so excited to be able to start listening to music and actually hearing it! I just bought the new Wolf Parade and Sleigh Bells, and I’m all over the Janelle Monae for the record club. Whee!

  7. Just thought I’d clear something up by stating that Anti-Gravity Bunny is not part of the Altered Zones group and isn’t affiliated with Pitchfork in any way. AGB is just me posting to my blog, although I do occasionally write for diskant.

    • Hey Justin,

      Thanks for the correction. I read somewhere (that I can now not find) that it was. Sorry for the unwanted association!

  8. I absolutely adore Marcus Mumford, and his band is incredibly refreshing and bone chilling. Laura Marling has a wonderful voice, however, maybe its just me because i have such a thing for Mumford, but i dont like them being together! He is amazing, shes a homie hopper (as the 14 year old me would have said). Just as John Lennon had to keep his marriage a secret when he started out due to his female fanbase, Marcus should do the same. Although, it’s their life they should do as they please, im just commenting!

    • I agree! I’m totally jealous and then I was listening to her music and I hated to admit it but she’s really good. I like this song, but I think it’s kind of mean that she has Marcus singing background on something that’s already a response to Charlie. And everytime I hear “New Romantic” I think she’s referring to Marcus as the Ryan Adams sound-a-like. Oh well. Great music, even if it breaks my heart haha.

  9. love laura marling and am crazy about mumford & sons, but ive never really been a huge Noah fan (sorry, Jess!), but im digging the work this triangle has produced.

    Fleetwood Max is responsible for my absolute favorite public-ish breakup songs of all time – Mick’s Go Your Own Way and Stevies b-side, Silver Springs. Amazing.

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