Marina: Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land review – ambitious manifesto pop

The Welsh singer brings an operatic seductiveness to her ballads against misogyny

There are very few artists who create as thoughtfully as Marina Diamandis, formerly Marina and the Diamonds. “I am here to take a look inside myself,” she confides on the title track, sleekly propulsive electropop with a cheering message of self-acceptance. The self-loathing of Electra Heart, the 2012 concept album she addressed to the worst parts of herself, is banished, as are the many romantic imbroglios of 2019’s Love + Fear. What’s inside Marina today is deep concern for women and the world outside, and her best songs couple the personal and the political.

The music is pleasantly accessible, rather than daring, although you could imagine legendary producer Trevor Horn remixing Venus Fly Trap’s elegant take on 80s synth funk. Lyrically, it’s brimming with bristling ambition. Man’s World’s first two verses breezily link the Salem witch trials and 18th-century painter François Boucher with Marilyn Monroe and hypocritical, homophobic autocrats. Pandora’s Box may be a collection of limp balladeer cliches, yet it follows the bruising New America, her savage rebuke of the failure of the States. Anti-misogyny manifesto pop could easily become clumsy and overwrought, but the joy Marina invests into her mannered, quasi-operatic delivery makes sedition sound seductive.

Watch the video for Man’s World.


Damien Morris

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Xenoula: Xenoula review – an intricate, experimental debut
(Weird World)

Tara Joshi

26, Nov, 2017 @8:00 AM

Article image
Public Service Broadcasting: Bright Magic review – mood music, from Weimar to Bowie
Berlin is the inspiration for the band’s inventive if melancholy fourth album

Phil Mongredien

26, Sep, 2021 @2:00 PM

Marina and the Diamonds: Electra Heart – review
The Welsh pop siren plays prom queen to less than convincing effect, writes Kitty Empire

Kitty Empire

28, Apr, 2012 @11:05 PM

Article image
Marina and the Diamonds: Froot review – steeped in introspection
Marina Diamandis pulls the focus inwards on her cohesive follow-up to Electra Heart

Michael Cragg

15, Mar, 2015 @8:00 AM

Article image
Waxahatchee: Saint Cloud review – fierce and ambitious but hard to love

Jude Rogers

29, Mar, 2020 @2:00 PM

Article image
Goldfrapp; Marina and the Diamonds, Roundhouse, London NW1

Marina Diamandis sparkles on the verge of pop stardom, while Goldfrapp go for the glam-stomp jugular, writes Kitty Empire

Kitty Empire

24, Jul, 2010 @11:06 PM

Article image
One to watch: Plastic Mermaids
The Isle of Wight scores again with this multi-talented, playfully ambitious indie five-piece

Damien Morris

29, Oct, 2022 @1:00 PM

Article image
James Blake: Assume Form review – a big, glitchy, swooning, hyper-modern declaration of love
A love letter to his partner brimming with guest spots and west-coast vibes, James Blake’s fourth LP is a long way from his ‘blubstep’ roots

Kitty Empire

19, Jan, 2019 @2:00 PM

Article image
Mary Epworth: Elytral review – electronica unbound
(Sunday Best)

Emily Mackay

03, Sep, 2017 @7:00 AM

Article image
Jónsi: Shiver review – ethereal steel for strange times
Jónsi’s first album in a decade is a clever mix of crunchy electronica and floating vocals

Jude Rogers

04, Oct, 2020 @12:00 PM