Marina and the Diamonds – Electra Heart
Buy Electra Heart
This album review was submitted by Philip Lickley. To contribute to All-Noise send your reviews to [email protected]
Marina and the Diamonds’ 2010 release The Family Jewels is undoubtedly one of my favourite albums of all time thanks to its eclectic mix of poppy songs, catchy choruses and the ability to not have one duff track on the album. It was with trepidation, then, that I awaited the follow up in fear that Electra Heart, a rough concept album about American female archetypes, would not live up to her promising start.
But, I am glad to report, although not the bubbly pop album of the first, the second is just as accomplished with much to enjoy over its considerable – in deluxe form, sixty-two minute run time.
In creating Electra Heart, Marina Diamandis has made a much gloomier album than The Family Jewels but one that is no less well written, interesting to hear and enjoyable to progress through. Tracks such as ‘Primadonna’, ‘Homewrecker’ and ‘Sex Yeah’ are as catchy as any of the major releases from the first album and though perhaps not quite as iconic as ‘I Am Not A Robot’, ‘Hollywood’ or ‘Oh No!’ are still up there at the same level.
This bassier, more downbeat album ironically kicks off with a belter of a track. ‘Bubblegum Bitch’ is an accelerated track, showing off Marina’s attitude and love, in this case, of rocky upbeat tunes. Very much Girls Aloud meets Lady GaGa, with lyrics that establish some elements of the album’s concepts, this rocky opening really kicks the album off.
And though the change into track two may be a little jarring, first proper single ‘Primadonna’ is a great new style for her. It’s a thumping song with dance elements, with a heavy bass riff and no fear of shifts in vocal style. The lyrics are very memorable and striking with several hooks, both lyrical and from Dr. Luke’s production. Throwing in several changes of pace between verse, bridge and chorus and you get a treat of a track that, though not grabbing you on first listen, is a definite builder.
‘Lies’ slows down the pace of the album and gives a nod in the direction of RnB. Perhaps not as exciting as the preceding tracks but the beat brings the song to life and the lyrics are, like the majority of the album, well written and interesting to follow. The song ends satisfyingly, rounding up a powerful ballad to relationships.
My favourite track on the album follows. The second song I heard from the album, ‘Homewrecker’ balances a satisfying recreation of old-style-radio on the opening vocals over an eerie backing before building up through the bridge to an immediately catchy chorus that you will quickly find yourself singing. Arguably the highlight of the album and the best way to end the first third.
‘Starring Role’ continues the theme of relationships and breaking up as well as the darker themes not so much tackled by her poppier debut. The production values and lyrics are less defined and it’s a track that becomes more powerful and remarkable than the start suggests.
‘The State of Dreaming’ starts off, like the last one, without standing out massively but the chorus really kicks the track up a notch with some well placed strings and bells that add to a building epic feel.
‘Power & Control’, with its delve into almost rap-like delivery, continues the mix of great words and vocal styles and is a well built, multi-layered track with a haunting tubular bells-esque backing. Follower ‘Living Dead’ creates a repeating hook out of stuttering that really works well and, as we hit the two-thirds mark, shows there is very little filler on the album.
‘Teen Idle’ is the first of two tracks that steal a sound from the first album, this sounding like ‘Rootless’ at times but it adds some of its own appeal to help stand on its own feet. ‘Valley of the Dolls’ that follows is one of the weaker songs on the album but doesn’t let the LP down and fits neatly in with the album’s style.
‘Hypocrates’ is a slightly perkier number with a simple, but hook-filled, chorus and feels much more from the indie genre than the rest of the album, sort of like Keane meets New Radicals. Musically much more varied, this carries the album onto the final, lengthy track ‘Fear and Loathing’, which builds up from a flurry of morse code into the only true ballad of the record. It gives Marina’s voice a true chance to shine here and though not as emotionally constructed as ‘I Am Not A Robot’ from The Family Jewels does crank up the sentiment. With a sombre feeling and a distant voice continuing as the song fades away, it is a perfectly pitched conclusion to the album and proudly declares it to have her gran on supporting vocals!
Though this would be a great end to the album I’d picked up the deluxe version so, as well as four artcards, two remixes of ‘Primadonna’ and an acoustic video of ‘Lies’ available to me, there are four extra tracks on the end.
The first is ‘Radioactive’, the first song released on the internet in the run up to the album. It is a clubby number, reminiscent of Calvin Harris in style. Not my favourite of the tracks and perhaps not missed from the main body of the album, it is a grower thanks to its hook elements even if the chorus is a little too repetitive for my liking.
It’s second track ‘Sex Yeah’ which I think was tricked out of a place on the album. It’s a great track with a much poppier sound than the rest of the album but not afraid to sample the club beats too. With an effective opening and backing hook it also boasts lyrics that neatly sum up the state of female singers in pop at the moment.
‘Lonely Hearts Club’ follows and is, again, a little poppier than the main record but boasts a good mix of elements that come together for a neat bonus track and ‘Buy The Stars’ rounds off the quadruplet of extra songs with a piano-led backing with echoes of ‘Guilty’ from the first album, and it rounds the piece off nicely.
Overall Electra Heart is difficult to fault as there are no real duff tracks on the record. The main dozen songs are much gloomier than the first album but don’t confuse gloomy for downbeat as there are some cracking, catchy tunes in there and lyrics that stand out even away from the music. I still think ‘Hollywood’ is her best track but the opening two tracks, ‘Homewrecker’ and ‘Fear and Loathing’ stand up well and the addition of the four bonus tracks throws some possible album contenders out there.
If you like your tracks well written and with something to say whilst still providing you with something enjoyable to listen to then you’ll find it here. It’s different to her first album in tone but her style, voice and attitude is still there and it’s certainly no difficult second album and deserves to do well.