Marina & The Diamonds - The Family Jewels
This latest release arrives under a technological lock and key and accessible only via a password-encoded stream. No, it’s not the eagerly anticipated Jedward album; it’s the debut album of one of The Music Fix’s tips for 2010, Marina & The Diamonds - and you probably won’t listen to a more inventive and exciting album this year.
To describe The Family Jewels as an excellent electro pop album would be a correct, though extremely basic, opinion and would miss the point by a nautical mile; Marina delights in confounding expectations and not following standard blueprints. The eccentric vocals and sometimes bizarre lyrics that resonate throughout the album are touches that other artists would cross the street to avoid. She certainly out-odds Florence ... in the oddball stakes. This is not just an electro pop album; this is a Marina & The Diamonds electro pop album.
It’s precisely because of this that The Family Jewels won’t be for everyone. The most divisive moment comes on ‘Hollywood’, ironically also the most mainstream effort on the entire album. The delivery of the lyrics “He said 'Oh my God you look just like Shakira' / No, no you’re Catherine Zeta / Actually my name's Marina” has a very mannered Kate Nash air to it and will leave you with one of two very distinct reactions: you’ll either cringe after the first lyric or it’ll leave you smiling dementedly at her defiance and refusal to fit in. If it’s the former, then this album isn’t for you.
For those who stick by it though, you’ll be rewarded with a collection of tracks that will always do something different, like on ‘Mowgli’s Road’, the most off-the-wall track that you will likely hear all year. Other highlights include ‘Girls’, a light-hearted mocking of the female gender (“Girls they never befriend me ‘cos I fall asleep when they speak of all the calories they eat”) and ‘I Am Not A Robot’, a beautifully-delivered heartfelt and intimate track - although Marina still can’t resist putting something out of left field into it with the robotic backing vocals.
Even these tracks are outshone by the superb ‘Oh No!’, which boasts a double hitter in the catchiest chorus and best central hook on the entire album. It’s an instant classic which grabs you from the first listen and transports you to the dance floor, wherever you are. It also refuses to fade away, leaving you with a shamelessly camp outro that still resonates in your head as the next track starts. It seems the most obvious choice for the next single, meaning you won’t be able to avoid its charms even if you don’t listen to the album.
However, it’s certainly not a flawless affair with certain tracks like ‘Obsessions’ and ‘Guilty’ not hitting the mark as perfectly as others. It also unfortunately fades away at the end instead of ending with the final, electro-fuelled sparkle it deserves. ‘Numb’ is probably the biggest disappointment, a decent album track but almost too straightforward for the album; it shows that she can do serious and sombre but you’re just left wishing that she added some quirkiness to make it more memorable.
That being said, this is still an impressive effort, albeit not a completely instant one. The electro hooks and unique vocals should entice the adventurous but it’s with repeat listens that the album truly comes of age as you realise just how different it is to what else is around. If these are The Family Jewels, you have to wonder what treasures Marina can unearth next.