Marina and the Diamonds
So I’ve just learned that I am tragically unhip. Now, I don’t mean to be an arrogant snot, but this was news to me. I know I’m not the most cutting-edge, but I like to think that I do have some knowledge of what’s going on. Apparently not so.
Let’s start at the beginning. I was talking to a friend, and this is how it went:
Me (confused by her extreme excitement at going to the place where people keep their boats): Oh, the marina… That sounds nice… And that’s great, you’re re-evaluating your goals and interests, change can be really good for a person—
Friend: No, not the marina! Eww, boats? No. Marina!!!!!! Like, MARINA AND THE DIAMONDS?????
Me: I don’t know what that is. And I like boats.
Friend: You are tragically unhip.
So I followed the most logical next step, and Googled. Here’s what I found:
Marina Diamandis is a 24-year old Welsh singer-songwriter. She is a solo artist, and performs with a backing band. But as she explains on her MySpace page, the “diamonds” are not the band, but refer to us, her fans. This sense of connection and inclusiveness between Marina and her listeners is not just limited to presentation and showmanship—it’s a very real part of her music. Marina is a star, but she isn’t about to step all over us to make that point. She is great because she is confident in herself. Almost as if she is the drum major of a parade of independent spirits who celebrate each other’s differences, her music encourages doing-your-own-thing above anything else. I know that sounds a little corny and a lot fantastical, but Marina makes it seem possible.
I could write a little bit about all of the songs on “The Family Jewels” and wax joyful about each of their brilliant musical swells, nuanced harmonies, and emotionally-charged subject matter, but we’d be here for years. Suffice it to say that this is one fantastic album. The rich tones of Marina’s wide vocal range and a smattering of 80s, Soft Cell-like backbeats are the only sonic consistencies across the very different tracks. Featuring melodic lines from the likes of marching bands, Eleanor Rigby violins, and aggressive piano, to shoegaze-esque electronic haze and tinkling bells, “The Family Jewels” presents a well-rounded portfolio of Marina’s distinctive talents. “Hollywood,” “I Am Not a (L.A.) Robot,” and the latest single “Oh No!” are the more-well known of her songs. Deservedly so—they’re great. But skipping over the rest of album would be a grave mistake—“Seventeen” and “Obsessions” are worth just as much hype. I don’t think it can be said that any song on this album was approached half-heartedly—Marina’s voice is strong, and there is intensity and drive even on the quieter tracks.
Also, I freaking love the videos. She’s released videos of four tracks (with a fifth video to come out October 4), all of which are artful and unexpected. (Though be advised, if you haven’t exercised within the last few years, better be careful if you’re going to try to dance along. I nearly dislocated my entire left side when “Oh No!” came on my playlist and I started bouncing around my room like a jellybean on uppers.)
Citing influences from designer Vivienne Westwood to Old Hollywood, cartoons to Barbie Dolls, she admires “anyone who is not afraid to risk success and popularity.” Marina certainly took risks on this album, and we diamonds sure are grateful.
Check out the video that nearly hospitalized me: