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Marina & The Diamonds - The Family Jewels

Marina & The Diamonds, The Family Jewels

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4.5 out of 5

MARINA & The Diamonds – aka Greek-Welsh singer Marina Diamandis – is defiantly non-conformist, yet rapidly becoming one of the mainstreams most interesting new artists.

Having come runner-up in the BBC’s Sound of 2010 poll, she then scored a massive chart hit with Hollywood, an anthemic ditty that established her as an exciting hybrid of Kate Bush and Bat For Lashes with Florence & The Machine-style appeal.

Now, with her debut album The Family Jewels, she confirms that the buzz surrounding her is not misplaced. Rather, this fiercely independent outsider looks set to be one of the big talking points of 2010.

Fusing elements of operatic folk, disco pop, punk, hip/hop and Goth, it’s an exciting mixture that delivers something intriguing with each new track.

Her emphatic vocals, meanwhile, add extra kick. They’re by turns stirring, provocative, distinct and constantly varying, channelling – at various points – the raw rock energy of PJ Harvey with the orchestral flourishes of Bat For Lashes, and the ’80s sound of Kate Bush.

Each song could be a future hit in the making.

Album opener Are You Satisfied? gets things rolling in confident fashion, setting those distinct vocals around flourishing, swirling synths and violins. It’s a stirring entry point and reassuring confirmation that Hollywood isn’t the only exceptional track.

Rather, every one has something to offer.

I Am Not A Robot underlines her audacity and resolve, setting bouncy, pop-friendly piano loops over defiantly independent lyrics that sound like a deliberate pop at the mainstream.

Girls, the one slight disappointment, employs a more ragged, much less satisfying vocal style, but still displays an assured songwriting touch with lyrics such as “it’s easy to be sleazy when you’ve got a filthy mind”.

Early single Mowgli’s Road, on the other hand, recovers from a shaky opening to register a strong chorus that gets richer the more you listen to it, while Obsessions drops the tempo successfully for a no-less enjoyable tale of obsession.

Hollywood is the standout and most accessible offering, complete with its catchy “I’m obsessed with the mess that’s America” chorus, and Keane-friendly piano bed.

But The Outsider is another gem that emphasises Marina’s brash individualism: hitting you with lyrics such as “don’t get on my bad side, I can work a gun”. The vocal layering over the chorus is particularly effective and a further indication of the ambition inherent in her songwriting.

Hermit The Frog, meanwhile, furthers the point by dropping the type of chorus that wouldn’t sound out of place in a West End show with some chart-friendly, sing-along dum ba da dum melodies.

Oh No! adds a further hip/hop element by virtue of its kick-ass back beat and an unashamedly cheesy ’80s kind of vibe. But it’s a statement of intent, as Marina eschews the need for romance, love, money and insists: “I just want to make a change.”

Well, she’s making one in her own uncompromising way.

A further highlight comes in the form of Rootless, which places her vocals very much to the fore, and some baroque instrumental backing that showcases at the darker side to her psyche. It’s here that Kate Bush and Bat For Lashes spring to mind, successfully.

Numb, meanwhile, adds a further layer of humility and vulnerability, slowing down the tempo to provide a track that neatly juxtaposes her feistier material. Admittedly, it has a poppy dum da dum dah vocal harmony to guide you out, but that only serves to add to the song’s charm and Marina’s overall appeal.

So, while Ms Diamandis may see herself as an outsider, you can’t help but feel she’s going to become part of mainstream pop’s establishment pretty quickly – only, for once, that’s a compliment.

The Family Jewels is a great debut album that marks the arrival of a fairly sizeable new talent.

Download picks: Hollywood, Numb, Rootless, Oh No!, The Outsider, Are You Satisfied>, Hermit The Frog

Track listing:

  1. Are You Satisfied
  2. Shampain
  3. I Am Not A Robot
  4. Girls
  5. Mowgli’s Road
  6. Obsessions
  7. Hollywood
  8. Outsider, The
  9. Hermit The Frog
  10. Oh No
  11. Rootless
  12. Numb
  13. Guilty