CD Choice

 

MARINA & THE DIAMONDS
The Family Jewels
Warners
****

Were it not for pesky Ellie Goulding, Marina the Diamonds would have picked up all the Best New Act awards at the turn of the year. Instead, Marina Diamandis has had to content herself with most of the runner-up slots.

A one-woman act (there are no “Diamonds”), the half-Greek, half-Welsh Diamandis has been clear from the start that she’s not another idiosyncratic female with a keyboard, and has no difficulties fully embracing the pop world. Which is the one of the more beguiling aspects of this splendid debut album.

The first single, Mowgli’s Road, is exuberantly up-tempo, with enough nods to today’s prevailing tunes to firmly locate it as a contemporary sound. It’s a sound Diamandis works very well throughout The Family Jewels – she can flirt outrageously with a standard girlband sound before reigning herself back in with imaginative flourishes. On Hollywood she goes all Euro-disco (but in a good way) and places an alt.pop sheen on top of it. When she goes down a tempo, as on the excellent I Am Not a Robot, she demonstrates that she can out-Florence Florence. As the album continues you’re never far from the feeling that this is the sound PJ Harvey fronting Girls Aloud.

There are touches of cabaret, new wave, 1980s-style MTV pop, along with the odd ballad, all artfully messed up. And that really is Marina’s great strength: by not allowing herself to be pushed into any particular place on the spectrum, she skips all around, picking up sounds here and sounds there to create a musical collage that appeals on so many levels.

True, not everything comes off (Hermit the Frog is a case in point). But on a song such as the cleverly arranged Obsessions, Diamandis reveals such a playful, interesting approach to song structure that you can only view this album as the opening chapter in a very, very promising career.

Download tracks: I Am Not a Robot, Obsessions