When you’re as important as we are you get to hear music before you’re supposed to, and we don’t mean simply recording songs from a gig with our mobiles. So, we’ve managed to get our hands on The Family Jewels, the debut album by Marina & The Diamonds. Can it live up to the hype? Does she deserve all the plaudits and poll mentions? Can we get to the end without that voice grating on us? Let’s find out…
Are You Satisfied?
A musically upbeat (there’s a lot of musically upbeat tracks on this album) ode to signing her contract and wondering whether it’s worth the risk of stepping out in the music industry. As ever the chorus is the key here and once again it’s HUGE. Even if you sat with your arms folded and tried your hardest not to get involved you’d be tapping along by the end.
Very similar to some of the stuff on Ladyhawke‘s debut, which is obviously not a bad thing. Lyrically it’s about drinking champagne and turns what is supposed to be this lavish celebration into something a bit sad; “drinking champagne, made up of angels tears of pain”. That makes it sound a bit drippy, but it’s not, it’s a robust, perky pop confection of the highest order.
I Am Not A Robot
An early single and still sounding as fresh as ever. All the early singles featured here sound better in context and this one has some lovely vocal effects, a nice piano melody and a sad lyric about, erm, not being a robot and stuff.
Marina in slagging off her sisters shocker! This is a bit patronising all things told. Seems to believe that men are more intelligent and interesting then a lot of women (or ‘girls’ as they are here). It’s also not that interesting musically, just trundling along on another jaunty melody with extra “nah, nah, nah, nahs”. It does have some nice accordion on it though.
Another early single and the one with that weird video. It should really be a massive mess – weird cuckoo sounds, jaunty piano, about three choruses – but the whole thing hangs together brilliantly.
A definite highlight and proof that when she tones some of the idiosyncrasies down a bit she can be just as effective. A tale about a difficult boyfriend (who may be violent, or just suffering from OCD), it builds towards a gorgeous chorus of “ohhs” and “ahhs” that are better then that description sounds.
The new single. You’ve probably heard it by now.
Another song that deals with how Marina sees herself, this time with some added Emo, especially in the lyrics. Musically, the song has a nice new wave-esque feel about it and trundles along nicely.
Hermit The Frog
Awful title aside, this is a brilliant example of what Marina’s about. Dramatic, sweeping and musically interesting, it also features some brilliant Kate Bush-esque vocals on the chorus, which mentions “glass balloons” a lot. Will probably be a future single if the record company have any sense.
Starts with some interesting beats before turning into another piano-based jaunt-a-thon (not a word). Once again it’s saved by an almighty chorus that will stick around your cranium for days afterwards. It’s also another song about Marina and what it’s like to be her and the negative influence of modern living, etc, etc.
A really nice change of pace. A drip-feed ballad that works well due to the more subdued approach. Musically it has some nice touches, in particular a lovely, mournful horn solo that appears about half way through.
Ah, some jaunty piano, welcome back. On this occasion, however, the almighty climax that each song tends to rush towards fails to materialise and everything’s kept to a relative minimum. It works well, Marina’s sweet vocals merging with some sweeping strings.
An odd finale as the pace picks up again. Guilty features some intricate wordplay and some lovely harpsichord but is a bit of a nothing end to an album that deserved better. Some nice jaunty piano though.
Overall verdict: 4.5/6
The Family Jewels is released on the 22 February.