After a four-year long hiatus, MARINA has followed up her 2015 Froot with double-LP LOVE + FEAR and…it’s not what I’d hoped for. She’s dropped the Diamonds from her name, and a lot of the fun I felt in past songs like ‘How to Be a Heartbreaker’ and ‘Oh No!’.
LOVE was released first in early April, to give fans time to listen to the opening 8 tracks first. The two-piece album has an interesting conceptual idea behind it; that humans are capable of only experiencing either love or fear, with all positive and negative emotions stemming from this. In that case, I almost expected LOVE to be a mixture of upbeat, ‘in love’ tracks with some slower ‘pining for love’ tunes mixed in, as many love songs seem to fit into. The lead single ‘Handmade Heaven’ starts off softly, somewhat reminiscent of the old Marina in Electra Heart’s ‘Fear and Loathing’. I like the chorus, but there’s a lack of tempo or music change between verses and chorus that felt quite monotonous. It’s pleasant enough, but not the kind of lead single that would draw me in if I hadn’t already known about Marina and liked her past work. Another single, ‘Superstar’, follows this and I found the structure a little weird with a lot of filler ‘ooh’ ing that just didn’t do it for me. It felt halfway between a ballad and a bop, settling in an odd middle ground that left me wishing she’d made up her mind about the sound. I liked ‘Orange Trees’, the imagery helped me forget I was writing this in the library on a Sunday afternoon, with its mentions of orange trees (of course), flowers in your hair and bodies in the heat.
‘Baby’ was a stand-out as I’d loved this single released last year with Clean Bandit. It’s fast-paced and fun, with a catchy chorus. Although I do appreciate the more emotional side to Marina’s music, this was honestly a nice breather from the slower tracks on LOVE. The remaining four songs on LOVE had some interesting moments, but honestly mostly blurred into one for me. There’s some good lyrics, and I liked the theme of unity in ‘To Be Human’ but they’re all just so slow. The main issue I found throughout the entire album was this monotony, not helped by the slow speed and mournful vocals that made 3 minute 30 seconds feel far longer.
‘Believe In Love’ was a promising start to FEAR, with a more interesting style. I really liked the quick staccato style, almost speaking, vocals in the verses, which made a nice contrast to the more trademark Marina soulful sounding chorus. I was more optimistic, but again found the song dragged on a bit too much. ‘You’ is pretty good, with an interesting use of echoing backup vocals. ‘Karma’ got me missing the fun, almost tongue-in-cheek songs from Marina’s earlier work, with the line “oh my god I think it’s karma” delivery reminding me of ‘Oh, No!’. I can’t lie, I got distracted by Twitter during ‘Emotional Machine’ so I can’t say it’s particularly memorable, but probably pretty good if you’re feeling angsty. The production on ‘Too Afraid’ was more interesting, but the lyrics lacked inspiration and felt basic. The final songs of FEAR raised my hopes again, particularly with ‘No More Suckers’, as I loved the higher breathy vocals in the bridge which made a nice welcome change to the usual deeper tones. ‘Soft To Be Strong’ has a nice message which I read as realising that being vulnerable is a strength and is a good ballad to end the album. However, there’s so many ballad style slow songs on this album it starts to feel extraneous.
The main issue I had with the album is its monotony.
There’s not that much distinction between the themes of LOVE + FEAR, leaving a feeling that 16 songs is just a bit too long when most of them sound the same. I wish I liked this more, but I was just bored throughout, and honestly a little bored writing this up. There’s a couple of songs I like and would listen to again, but this album just really misses the mark for me. Sorry Marina, maybe the next one will have more spark?