Music

Marina & The Diamonds: The Family Jewels

Marina has very ambitious goals for herself, which I can't imagine the majority of her audience really sharing on her behalf.


Marina & The Diamonds

The Family Jewels

Label: 679
US Release Date: 2010-02-16
UK Release Date: 2010-02-22
Amazon
iTunes

Marina has very ambitious goals for herself, which I can't imagine the majority of her audience really sharing on her behalf. A less subtle Tori Amos, Marina (and her nonexistent diamonds -- Florence has her machine, after all) seems to believe that she is heads and shoulders above any "singer-songwriter" tag that could be applied to her. And as a result, her overblown debut is definitely an acquired taste. It's the typical combination of piano, guitar, strings, bass, drums, and voice most of the time, but the sheer dictatorship in her voice totally takes you out of any Nerina Pallot/Adele comfort zone you might have thought you were entering.

In fairness, Marina isn't just a singer-songwriter. She's a preacher-emoter-mocker-moaner-songwriter. Her melodramatic vocals dominate, resulting in thoroughly attention-seeking music. The opening "Are You Satisfied?" is all cheeky violins and forceful, trembling vocals, showcasing her drive and determination from the start. "I Am Not A Robot" demands attention from an unattentive lover, while "Hollywood" mocks showbiz, simultaneously namedropping. This is the sound of a woman who is adamant that she's not going anywhere until she's reached the top. One almost thinks of Lady Gaga when lyrics like "TV taught me how to feel, now real life has no appeal" spill from Marina's loose lips. She also seems determined to confess and open herself up for all to see, claiming, "if I fail, I'll fall apart".

Her music doesn't quite live up to the hype that she builds up about herself. Great songs are sometimes let down by predictable arrangements. The opening trio of tracks, particularly the stomping disco of "Shampain", and the singles "Mowgli's Road" and "Hollywood", showcase Marina's spectacular songwriting ability. However, when she doesn't live up to these heights, one feels overwhelmed by her presence, such as during the musical cartoon "Hermit the Frog", which grates with each tongue-in-cheek ad lib. It seems that Marina occasionally cannot help but cross the line between tongue-in-cheek and finger-down-throat.

However, she does get away with it, and quite often surprisingly enough. As she screams, "I'm a fucking wildcard!", the new wave synths and enthusiastic beats of the slightly La Roux-esque "The Outsider" begin to make you feel as excited about her as she is, and "Oh No!" balances its sheer melodrama with a goliath of a dance rock backing track. "Numb" echoes Annie Lennox at her most quirky and pulls it off admirably, despite disarmingly stating, "I'm no good to anyone, because all I care about it is number one". Elsewhere the overconfidence she exudes can be slightly offputting when the music is happy to take a backseat.

The Family Jewels is a positively bipolar album, full of self-confident highs and blatant cockiness followed by self-effacing lows, but Marina seems to celebrate each extreme with the same affected deadpan. An intriguing listen no doubt, and no one sounds quite like Marina at the moment, but there is nevertheless only so much you can take in one go. Although there is definitely musical colour here, Marina's vocal delivery and attitude has a tendency to overshadow the music, which is often melodically inventive, but we are rarely given the chance to realise this. Once is a novelty, but if we are to understand how much Marina has to offer musically, she has got to tone it down. Another in-your-face record will be one too many.

6


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Music

Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.

Music

Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.

Television

HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.

Music

Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.

Music

Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.

Books

'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.

Film

'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.

Music

Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.

Music

DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.

Music

JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.

Music

​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.

Music

Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times

Music

Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.

Music

How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.

Books

Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.

Music

Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.