by / March 13th, 2015 /

Marina & The Diamonds – FROOT

 1/5 Rating

(Atlantic)

Less than three years since she toyed with the idea of being a chart-seeking artist with semi-concept album Electra Heart, Marina has dialled it way back. Gone are the likes of Diplo, Dr Luke, Greg Kurstin and Stargate; this time she’s written everything by herself, and co-produced only with David Kosten, best known for his knob-twiddling for Bat For Lashes. Also, whereas last time she seemed to be taking on the whole word and its problems, this time round it’s far more focussed. Albums about break-ups aren’t particularly rare, but in a particularly rare example of artistry honesty, Marina is the dumper, not the dumpee. “We broke up and now I regret it, I said goodbye when I shouldn’t have said it,” she confesses on ‘Blue’, and straight away we know we’re getting that uniquely skewed version of pop we love her and her Diamonds for.

Kicking off with the ironically titled ‘Happy’, the threadbare piano ballad lays the Welsh lass raw and emotionally vulnerable, starting off sounding like she’s singing from the foetal position on the floor of the studio, before the triumphant and defiant drums sneak in, and Marina is back standing, finding the joy in heartbreak. From there on in, things pick up drastically, as the title track sexily informs us that she’s “Been saving all my summers for you, like Fro-o-o-ooot!” over the erratically jaunty 8-bit instrumental. ‘I’m A Ruin’ kicks off as if it’s going to be another emo-ballad, but it’s not long before the deep drums and insanely catchy post-chorus nonsense “Yeah-yeah, uh-huh, woo-hoo, YEAH!” takes the whole thing off in different direction. That bait-and-switch is something that can be found throughout the rest of Froot’s DNA, as the equally ironically titled ‘Blue’ finds Marina fighting depression against the most up-tempo beat to be found on the whole album, while ‘Solitaire’ slowly builds us up with tense, terse verses to a big explosion of a chorus that cunningly but frustratingly never arrives.

While usually a refracted pop sound all of her own, Froot can sometimes run into the blurred lines of sounding a little familiar, as with the broken sonar electro on ‘Gold’ reminiscent of David Bowie’s ‘Ashes To Ashes’, or the very Pharrell Williams-esque guitar licks on ‘Can’t Pin Me Down’. It’s never enough to distract, and if anything it attracts attention to how no two songs on the album sound terribly alike; there’s no blurring between tracks, the sonic and emotional rollercoaster she takes us on means we’re constantly sat upright, paying total attention. There is a quick sojourn into rockier territory towards the end – ‘Better Than That’ and ‘Weeds’, especially – when things get less interesting, but its turned around again for the electro-pop of the angrily politically minded ‘Savages’ and the moody atmospherics of existential closing track ‘Immortal’.

It’s unlikely that anything on here shared the same hit-single mind-set of ‘Primadonna’, ‘Power & Control’ or ‘Hollywood’, but Marina never felt like she belonged to the masses. She was that emotionally intelligent outsider who knew how to perfectly articulate those weird thoughts and reactions we all have but would never admit to, her esoteric lyricism equally deflecting from and merging with what otherwise sounds like a perfectly pop-formulated track. With Froot, we’ve got to know Marina a little better, and through that, we know ourselves a little better, too. How many albums can you say that about?

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