Give up any illusions that you know Marina and the Diamonds. You don’t know this Marina. The Marina you know from the teen dreams of 2010’s The Family Jewels is dead. The Marina you know from the glittering electropop parties of 2012’s Electra Heart is also dead. This Marina killed both of them.
Don’t press play. Look at the album cover. Gone is the tiny heart below her eye, the Marilyn blonde curls, the coy look from behind her lashes. Gone is the thick eyeliner, the retro-glam styling. In its place: Marina, sporting dark hair and light makeup (bright lipstick excluded), staring directly into the lens. This is the new Marina. The transformation is complete.
Press play. Note her striking alto, how it shines up and down octaves. Note how it evokes the danger of Justine Frischmann, the sheer interestingness of Amy Winehouse, the elaborate control of Grace Slick. Do not compare her to her contemporaries (including but not limited to: Lana Del Rey, Sky Ferreira, Florence Welch, Ellie Goulding and Jessie J). You will not find a suitable comparison. Let Marina sound like Marina. Enjoy that.
Add the best lyrics of her career for a vocal one-two punch. Give the lyrics time to unfold. Nothing is ever what it seems with Marina – at least not at first. Assume the fantastic, rock-oriented “Better Than That” is a typical case of inter-girl hate over a boy. Assume this until you hear Marina sing the following lyric about her romantic rival: “I’m not passing judgment on her sexual life / I’m passing judgment on the way she always stuck her knife.” Applaud her awareness, her intelligence, her overarching awesomeness.
Do not presume her lyrics are compensating for subpar songwriting. Welcome her initial avoidance of the uptempo habits that defined previous albums on understated piano ballad “Happy.” Witness her build “Can’t Pin Me Down” around an irresistible hook. Revel in her continued mastery of synth bangers while dancing to the title track and “Blue” without shame. Give “Gold” and “Weeds” a fair listen, even if you find them a bit ordinary.
Wait for “Savages,” a dark synth gem which lays bare our hidden barbarism, then lays it to waste. Hear her call out the entire human race on our collective BS (“Underneath it all, we’re just savages / Hidden behind shirts, ties and marriages”) and keep it relevant (“Are you killing for yourself or killing for your savior?”). Note how she has just made indie pop smart again.
Let the album end. Sit for a moment and think about how anyone’s voice can really be that incredible. Press play again.