Monday, March 15, 2010

Actually, Her Name's Marina

I never got the chance to formally review the brilliance encompassed on Marina & The Diamonds debut record, The Family Jewels, but better late than never. Honestly, I've already stated how late to the party I was in terms of the blogosphere's love affair with Marina but in terms of American excitement, we are only still on the cusp of her musical takeover. Whether or not she will be embraced in the mainstream is yet to be seen, but last night, I was fortunate enough to see what all the hype was about -- and walked away very satisfied indeed.

I got to take in Marina (and her pseudo-Diamonds) at The Bell House, a quaint, smoky little jazz lounge off the beaten track in Brooklyn, NY. It was Marina's debut American performance. I was unable to get any proper photographs due to my vertical challenges (read: I'm really short), plus it was really dark in the venue, so may I please direct your attention to The Music Slut, also at the show, who took some really great ones in my stead.

The show was co-sponsored by one of my favorite music blogs, PopJustice, who had a sent over a bunch of clever ad posters which I attempted to take pictures of with my phone and Twitter to you all (unfortunately, much of them didn't come out so well). Many of them were topical, with one stating, "Marina: Even Better than the 'Telephone' Video.' (More on that later...).

Anywho, Marina took the stage just after 9PM after a rather unexciting opening act in Sammy. Truthfully - after I heard word that the original opening act, Erik Hassle, had either cancelled or was a rumor that lead to a large letdown (I'm not sure which), I wasn't looking forward to too much and Sammy didn't do much to change my opinion. She came out wearing a canary yellow woolen hooded sweater (see TMS's pictures), to the tune of the ballsy track "Girls", which added to her kooky, quirky demeanor. If you're curious about her jumpy, woo! kind of vocal acrobatics existing in a live setting, I'm here to tell you, they certainly do. It's definitely a staple about Marina: she has her own kind of sound, and like her contemporaries in La Roux, you either love it or you despise it. Obviously, I'm in the former, rather than latter -- it sets her apart from the Brit femme nouveux crowd, and she sounds just as good live as she does on the record.

Marina performed the majority of the tracks from the album (the only I was a bit upset about missing out on was "Are You Satisified" -- the album's opening track which I'm quite find of for its lyrical content alone), with several highlights throughout the night. "I Am Not A Robot" and "Hollywood" (especially the now trademark "Actually, my name's Marina" bit in the latter -- the line was delivered more pointedly and recieved a round of applause) got the biggest crowd reception, as they are the most well known, and lest you forget, The Family Jewels is not available in the United States yet (it currently has a street date for May). "Oh No!", which has steadily shaped up to become my favorite cut from Jewels, was a personal standout performance for me.

She performed mostly in one place at the solo mic in the middle of the stage, only venturing out to the sides on small occasions, and playing keys during "Numb" and "Obsessions" toward the back of the stage. While I assumed she would close with "Hollywood", the big closing number was surprisingly "Shampain". I hope this means it is in contention for the next single, whether it's just for America or worldwide -- as it's clear that it's a fan favorite. She returned to the stage to perform "Mowgli's Road" as her encore. Overall, she performed for a little over an hour.

Her stage presence was striking. You'd have no idea she had never played in the United States if you didn't already know -- the fact was never truly mentioned, and she came off as a seasoned veteran (obviously, she is) with no sign of nerves whatsoever. Although she stayed close to her microphone, she didn't have to rely on much to keep the audience captivated. The setting was relatively small (somewhere around 300-400 people, I'm guessing), and the intimate setting fit with Marina quite nicely. She seemed geniunely happy to be there, and in good spirit -- keeping her talking between songs to a relative minimum other than to thank the crowd for coming out, and encouraging everyone to be themselves rather than trying to fit in to some aesthetic standard. On a Paula Abdul tip -- she looked adorable, and totally embodied the kitschy quirky pop demeanor I had envisioned for her.

One of the reasons why I've been consistently spinning The Family Jewels from start to finish is lyrically, it's interesting. While so much of pop these days sounds fun to the ear but is throwaway in meaning, Marina, along with her Brit power package in Ellie Goulding, La Roux, and Little Boots, continues to blow me away with quotable lyrics that reasonate with relatability and honesty, taking on a fresh meaning with every new listen. I feel that there is enough diversity on the record to appeal to everyone, whether you prefer her more swirly midtempo ballads like "Robot" and "Shampain" or her more marching uptempos like "Hollywood", "Girls" or "Oh No!". The entire album is a standout, and is sure to make my list of the Best of 2010.

I walked in to the performance with high expectations, especially considering it was her first American concert ever (so proud to say I witnessed that!) and she definitely blew me away. Marina is the real deal, and I hope America gets her -- its the type of pop packaging that seems custom-fit for the UK that the 'States Mainstream usually just scratches their heads at. No matter -- I'm proud of the fact that she's attempting to jump the pond and try her luck here. Even if it's an underground revival of true quirky pop, I'm still excited to be apart of it.

The Big Singles: "Mowgli's Road", "I Am Not A Robot", "Hollywood"
Songs You Need To Hear: "Oh No!", "Shampain", "Are You Satisfied", "Obsessions", "Girls"


John said...

Great review. I just imagine "Hollywood" to sound immense live.

Aaron said...

All sounds great!

I'm a MASSIVE fan of Oh No! too - Personal favourite there!

I actually really quite like Obsessions too, rather pretty...

rcLoy said...

*jealous* :P
I am really lovin' her album but I don't quite know how to put my words into it. LOL.

Maija said...

Wow, to catch the debut U.S. performance is pretty neat! I hadn't heard about Marina before you, but then saw Perez writing about them performing at SXSW so I think for sure you are onto something :)

Myfizzypop said...

Brillopants. I wish i had been there with you. That would have been ace of bases.

Mel said...

John - Thanks! It wasn't as large as I envisioned, but that was part of her charm. You felt like America was on to something. Hopefully the buzz continues at SxSW.

Aaron - :) :) I love it, even though I doubt it's single abilities ("Oh No!" I mean). "Obsessions" is also lovely and a nice change of pace from her already-released.

Loy - Ditto, I had the same trouble. But after seeing her live, I can't stop spinning the record.

Maija - I know, right? You should def look into her -- she's a solo artist that goes under the name "Marina & the Diamonds" (her last name is Diamandis - she's Welsh/Greek), and I'm predicting HUUUUUGE things for her. :)

Paul - I wish you had been there too! If you get the chance to see her when she comes back to the UK, DO IT!

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