• Laura Marling

British singer-songwriter Laura Marling, who’s reached the ripe old age of 20, recently released her accomplished second album, I Speak Because I Can (Virgin), and it makes me wonder what’s still ahead for her. She’s already ditched some of the irritating mannerisms that compromised her otherwise fine debut, Alas I Cannot Swim (Astralwerks, 2008), which speaks well of her taste. And though she’s still trafficking in the folk-pop style launched about four decades ago by Nick Drake—and largely untouched until Elliott Smith, who helped make it ubiquitous—on the new record she sings with less impatience, embraces relatively elaborate arrangements, and delivers stronger melodies and more restrained, mature lyrics.