Marina & The Diamonds Album Review: The Family Jewels

Marina & The Diamonds, The Family Jewels
Release Date: February 26, 2010

Half-Welsh half-Greek singer-songwriter, Marina Diamandis, better known by her stage name Maria & The Diamonds, is rapidly gaining international recognition and rave reviews due to her debut full-length record, The Family Jewels.

Marina first burst onto the European music scene with her 2009 debut EP, The Crown Jewels. The album’s success secured Marina the runner-up position on the highly regarded BBC Sound of 2010 List, the UK music industry’s annual predictions for the most promising new talent. Are Marina and The Diamonds set up for total domination of 2010’s musical landscape?

Marina and The Diamonds’ take on the pop landscape paints all things cliché with a heavy stroke of nihilism; earning comparisons to artists like La Roux and Kate Bush. The tracks seamlessly flow from genre to genre, from disco tinged pop to theatrical ballads, eventually taking a sharp turn towards a song featuring just about everything but auto-tune. Marina’s music is almost annoyingly hard to label. Does she sound like Bjork or like Ke$ha? One consistency exists throughout: Marina’s got an amazing ability to mix satirical lyrics with badass cascading synth choruses oh so well.

“Hollywood”, the album’s first single, has a synth-infused chorus as shiny and pretty as one of Adam Lambert’s stage outfits with intriguing lyrics about the preposterous “American Dream.” The song showcases Marina as a mainstream pop act but one that remains clearly still true to herself. Another standout track is “Mowgli’s Road”, named by an obscure Kipling reference and encompassing strands of Bjork-like genius. From the initial “Cuckoo”, the jungle animal noises and mentions of various pieces of cutlery make this track different from anything you’ve heard before. In this instance, different is good. Very good.

The most beautiful song on the album is “Obsessions”, a haunting ballad about an abusive relationship. In the song “I Am Not A Robot”, the listener can hear Marina explore a vulnerability that so many other singers will shun.

Though at first glance she seemed to be just another bubblegum pop star, Marina and The Diamonds shocked and awed me much like my first experience listening to Lady Gaga. This is no vapid, shallow woman gyrating to her own voice. With this album you get pop with substance and sarcasm; layered over a jokey Gagaesque referendum on money, fame, and the American Dream. As she says in “Hollywood”, “You do anything for a dime/Looking for the golden line.”

The Family Jewels is out right now! If you’re not yet convinced, check out Marina & The Diamonds’ music video for “Hollywood” below -

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Music is the one commitment I know I can uphold in my life. I work in music, and while at times it is frustrating it is the most rewarding thing I have ever been a part of. What can I say, music is quite literally my life.

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10 Comments

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    Whole heartedly agree! Haven’t stopped listening to this since it came out! :D

    Obsessions was the song that hooked me to Marina well over a year ago now, then saw her at festival here in Ireland last summer and was blown away. To say I was looking forward to this album is an understatement and it didn’t disappoint. Also love Numb. Most of her upcoming UK tour is sold out already!! Can’t wait to see her in May! She has gotten mixed reviews in the UK, with way too many people comparing her to Florence and the Machine and Kate Bush, luckily NME reviewed her on her own terms and seem to appreciate her as we do!

    I think Hollywood is a very clever first single, she should get some decent airplay in the US with the track’s name and Katie Perry-esque video, when her tour heads to NYC and onto SXSW in March.

    The next big debut album release over here is one Miss Ellie Goulding on March 1st! :)

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    I’m so happy someone in America is finally paying attention to an amazing singer. I wouldn’t expect any less from Autostraddle.

    Like Vicky, Obsessions is what hooked me. Such a fantastic song. I Am Not a Robot is also fantastic and there are some great mixes out too. The video alone is a trip.

    And yes that Ellie Goulding release is going to be epic (even if I have the songs already :/ )

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    I started following Audiostraddle on Twitter recently so I only first heard of her last week. Great recommendation. She definitely has a unique sound. Apparently, like everyone else, “Obsessions” is my favorite track and is what prompted me to download the album (legal purchase of which is forthcoming). I was also happy to learn, as is pointed out here, that she’s half-Greek, which seems to show through in the rather personal song “Rootless.” I love it and I can definitely relate. It does irk me that she doesn’t use her real name though but I think that’s just me being picky… and Greek.

    Maybe someone can answer this for me as well: Is the album version of “Hollywood” different from the music video version? The version I downloaded and sampled (aside from being 20 seconds longer) seems to have an extra verse about a flight attendant right after the “… dive on Vine” part at the beginning of the song. Anyone?

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    love love this album, there is not one un-catchy song. i can’t help but compare her to others who have gone before, not in a bad way, in a picking the best from everyone way – i’ve said it before but i hear the drama voice of florence and the machine and a little amanda palmer as well as the smart playful lyrics similar to nellie mckay. and some regina spektor thrown in for good measure.

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