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Album Review | Marina – Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land

Album Review | Marina – Ancient Dreams in a Modern LandScore 75%Score 75%

Twelve years since the release of her debut single, Marina Diamandis, formerly known as Marina and the Diamonds, has reinvented herself in the modern age and taken on a bold yet stylish aesthetic. It is now strange to think that Marina was once a Britpop-styled MySpace hopeful who forever seemed to sit on the fine line between mainstream pop and the ever so slightly independent quirkiness of the underground scene.

Since then, the Welsh singer-songwriter has unembellished her stage name, released five studio albums, and earned a place performing Glastonbury Festival in both 2009 and 2010.

While she was once self-critical, the transition from Electra Heart to her latest release, Ancient Dreams In A Modern Land, has seen Marina dip her toe into various musical directions while discovering who she truly is as an artist. The singer is as strong-willed and vocal as ever, boasting angelic tones which can switch to a lower range almost instantly. The fifth album from Diamandis waves the flag for problems faced by women in a misogynistic world and is very much driven by her headstrong attitude, albeit still produced and delivered successfully.

Straying from her previous self-loathing, Marina’s vocal ability remains as dramatic as ever while her lyrics are just as frank and honest; the new addition to her discography sees her write with emotion and purpose. Alongside yet another alter ego chosen to front the album, the new retro aesthetic adopted by Marina in her latest music videos is one without fault, and one that hopefully is as beautifully truthful as it is beautiful to look at.

Marina’s boldness does not stop at her new look however, as Ancient Dreams In A Modern Land presents the listener with perhaps her boldest music to date. The opening title track boasts a strong synth-style beat, and very closely echoes Britney Spears’ seminal ‘Womanizer’melodies. Without doubt, such similarities teamed alongside Marina’s captivating vocals epitomises the recipe for a catchy pop song worthy of its place in the Top 40 as who doesn’t feel the urge to hum along to such a famous beat?

‘Venus Fly Trap’ places Marina right in the heart of the story and glamourises both her self-confidence and individuality. As a bold track on all sides of the spectrum – music, lyrics, video – it is perhaps symbolic of the singer’s true persona. These qualities shine throughout the entirety of the album: “Why be a wallflower when you can be a Venus fly trap?”. Paired with a vibrant, vintage themed music video, the second track showcases the new Marina at the very top of her game.



‘Man’s World’ maintains these sentiments of empowerment. It’s as straight to the point as they come and yet again provides a vivid, visually aesthetic music video. With a piano accompaniment and a light, airiness to her vocals, Marina delivers an ethereal feel to her music that counteracts the anger of her lyrics.

Marina’s lyrical maturity teamed with a headstrong music video ensures that the empowering narrative really hits home. If we didn’t already think Marina was worthy of goddess status, the accompanying music video is enough to convince us otherwise.

“So don’t punish me ’cause I’m not a man”

Marina – Mans World

‘Highly Emotional People’ is as heavenly as they come with a light piano melody that is a harmonious accompaniment to Marina’s soprano vocal delivery; a piece that should seemingly be enshrined under a halo.

The third instalment to her piano trilogy is ‘Flowers’, a simple duet between instrument and singer. The tone is sombre. Marina’s heart is on her sleeve, ripped out of her chest, and placed high for all to see.

Yet, such delicacy is not lost on piano compositions alone, as ‘Pandora’s Box’ incorporates a glorious, heartfelt string arrangement, alongside an overall softness to both Marina’s musicality and vocals.

“With every careless action, you let me slip away”

Marina – Flowers

Such a musical feel is certainly neutralised with the likes of ‘Purge The Poison’, which is ultimately a fast-paced social commentary on all that is wrong in modern society – racism, misogyny, #MeToo, and “every single war”. Perhaps aiming to act as the voice for Mother Nature rather than for herself, Marina’s quick-tempo composition is the crescendo slotted perfectly in the centre of her latest album.

The remix with the addition of Russian feminist group Pussy Riot ensures that the message hits home harder than ever. Perhaps slightly hectic enough that the message may be missed, it could be argued that the song is ever so slightly too much, but maybe that’s exactly what Marina was going for.



Another unusual and somewhat chilling arrangement takes form in ‘New America’ and builds on the message of societal failures further. Marina’s use of plucked strings and layered vocals create a haunting track that is both fascinating and berating at once.

“Everything that made you great only made you bad”

Marina – New America

Use of these short and snappy notes return in ‘I Love You But I Love Me More’ and ‘Goodbye’ which stress Marina’s growth during the span of her career and the journey to loving herself. In these tracks, it is her vocals that take centre stage. They remain flawless throughout the track and the wider album, showcasing her development as an artist.

‘Goodbye’ is as soft as the latter half of the album, with a magnificent operatic string instrumentation used to ease the listener and highlight Marina’s musical talents and confidence. Both have only continued to grow since her breakthrough with The Family Jewels eleven years ago.

As strong and as bold as her newest album is, the reinvention of Marina Diamandis is one that was crucial for the singer and her development as an artist. This one was for nobody but Marina – once a diamond in the rough, now the brightest of them all.


Written by Lauren Whitehead | Illustrated by Rebekka Katajisto

Review

75%

Summary Marina’s fifth studio album, Ancient Dreams In A Modern Land, is one of trials, tribulations, but mostly self-discovery. Since Marina and the Diamonds, the Welsh singer-songwriter has been searching for her true self and this is perhaps where she has been able to find the answer. With both a mix of anger-fuelled lyrics and more poignant, piano ballads, Marina’s return is the boldest of her career and is also accompanied by a new, visually pleasing aesthetic. Producing an album with purpose and emotion, this one fills the Marina-shaped hole in our hearts.

Music
70%
Lyrics
65%
Production
80%
Music Videos
85%

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