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Album Review: Marina and the Diamonds – Electra Heart

Photo: Casper Balslev

‘Welcome to the life of Electra Heart’  Marina croons in ‘Bubblegum Bitch’, the opening track of her sophomore effort.  Sounding like Blondie on speed racing through the first minutes of the album with frantic excitement, it is recognisably Marina but admittedly strays significantly from her plucky piano-pop debut. The eccentric nature that is the essence of Marina And The Diamonds still remains, as does the expertly crafted songwriting skills that come from years of dedication to Britney Spears, but things have moved on from ‘The Family Jewels’. A little too soon for a change in sound, you might argue, but when it is pulled off as effortlessly as the top grade material on ‘Electra Heart’, doubts will soon be quashed.

Not every track is a total departure from Diamandis’ debut, as the gorgeous, piano-led ballad ‘Teen Idle’ and bonus track ‘Buy The Stars’ prove, conjuring similarities to fan-favourite ‘Numb’. Also, fans of Marina’s intelligent lyrics rejoice as the feminist anthems (‘Sex Yeah’) and psychological explorations (‘The State Of Dreaming’) should provide plenty of intellectual pop for you to devour.

Switching between a reflective, personal account in ‘Fear and Loathing’, complete with haunting ambient outro, Marina introduces a few characters onto ‘Electra Heart’ as she becomes the high-maintenance ‘Primadonna’ before taking on the role of a Homewrecker in, erm, ‘Homewrecker’. But there’s plenty of tracks to relate to on top of it all; the ode to a doomed relationship that is ‘Lies’, a sterling Dr.Luke production and the charming third single ‘Starring Role’ a mid-tempo that harks back to the Ryan Tedder productions that made a name for Leona Lewis.

There is plenty of variety on ‘Electra Heart’, but it’s thankfully not at the price of it’s coherence. ‘Power and Control’ and ‘Lonely Hearts Club’ allow Marina’s electronic tendencies to shine at the fore, whilst ‘Hypocrates’ serenades with an uplifting guitar-lead that feels like it was lifted from The Corrs’ back catalogue. Meanwhile, first single ‘Radioactive’ and the chart-bothering follow up ‘Primadonna’ benefit from a generous helping of dance in giving their pop sensibilities an appreciated kick.

With the support that is inevitable, given her sizable fanbase, Marina and the Diamonds should soar to new heights with ‘Electra Heart’. It salvages what was working best from her debut record, throws a great production around it and most importantly, never understates the importance of an undeniable hook. This isn’t generic pop topped with crooning about swag; it has an intellectual quality that most chart-toppers aren’t too fluent in but what Marina plays as her trump card.

Photo: Casper Balslev
Words: Simon McMurdo

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