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Music Review: Marina and the Diamonds – The Family Jewels

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There’s nothing like the feeling you get when some artist that you’ve never noticed before reaches out and tugs at your soul. Time stands still, and the only thing that matters is to find that replay button, that rewind button or just a piece of paper and a pen so you can jot down a few lines of lyrics and find out who that was on the radio the second you come home. Now and then, the Internet is really your friend.

Marina and the Diamonds did just that to me today. Sure, I’ve heard some of the songs before – I remember that now. But it was only today that a couple of songs that I haven’t heard before popped up on my random playlist. They all came from The Family Jewels album, and after hearing the first lines of “Numb,” I was hooked and listened to the whole album three times in a row, something an album hasn’t made me do since Band of Horses brought the Everything All the Time album to my attention.

Marina and the Diamonds are hypnotic, and I’m still wondering if it’s the lyrics that do it or if it’s simply Marina’s ability to use her voice in registers – and between registers – that simply aren’t accessible to the average human. At times, it’s impossible not to wonder if she is human at all, donning a voice that will remind most people of massive talents like Florence Welch (of Florence and the Machine) and even musical geniuses like Martha Wainwright. I have to agree with one Amazon.com reviewer who stated: “I haven’t enjoyed a CD this much since Florence and the Machine’s Lungs from last year.”

The theme of The Family Jewels’ lyrics is fame, and the rise to and fall from it. The cover art shows a plastic Marina, signaling the group’s view of so-called stars, and the illusion that is the limelight, the red carpet and the lightning flashes of paparazzi cameras. Lines throughout the lyrics remind the listeners of it, especially in “Numb” and “I Am Not A Robot.”

Let’s just get this straight. Much of my personal music library is occupied by Rammstein, Metallica and other rather heavier participants on the music scene. But that just proves one point: Marina and the Diamonds can touch anyone, and their music is far from rock or heavy-anything, really.

There are a few weak points that need to be mentioned in the midst of all this praise, however, though it pains me. At times, Marina’s voice competes too much with itself. A frantic jumping between octaves can be fascinating, but it can also be tiring if it’s overdone, and that is something she is guilty of on a few occasions here. It breaks up the songs and maintains interest, but it gets old a little too fast for comfort.

There is also the issue of her “tough girl” attitude at some points, making the lyrics come in second when she hints at sex and fame in “I Am Not A Robot.” But that doesn’t void the fact that it is one of the strongest tracks of the whole record.

On the whole, there’s nothing to hesitate about. Whether on CD, mp3, or whatever your player of choice is, this album should be in your music collection.

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