From Electra Heart to Mother Nature, MARINA never misses
Vicky Greer
15:56 8th June 2021

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The artist formerly known as Marina and the Diamonds has been dazzling us since she stepped on to the scene in a burst of colour over a decade ago. It didn’t take long for her to become an influential figure in the music industry, and it’s safe to say that alt-pop wouldn’t be where it is today without Electra Heart. After educating a generation on how to be heartbreakers, Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land sees her tackle everything from the patriarchy to climate change with a sharp tongue and victorious pop music. With the same tongue-in-cheek attitude that she’s always armed with, the new album proves that Marina never misses.

As the album gradually moves from fast paces to slower tempos, the first half of the album is a high-energy bombshell, with previous singles ‘Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land’, ‘Man’s World’ and ‘Purge The Poison’ fighting for your attention. The effect is a bold showstopper coming in quick before settling into the more laid-back mood of the second half. The opening to the title track takes you back to the intoxicating dance-pop of the late '00s, with a much more modern message: a call to humanity that we’re royally screwing things up. MARINA has never hidden the messages in her music, and with lyrics that slap you in the face while you dance along here, she’s not about to stop.

‘Venus Fly Trap’ is a markedly striking reminder of The Family Jewels and Electra Heart; the central question of “why be a wallflower when you can be a Venus fly trap?” harks back to the sarcasm-tinged charisma of the Electra Heart Character. But here, MARINA isn’t singing from behind a persona; even when she sings as Mother Nature on ‘Purge The Poison’, it feels like she’s singing as herself.

Where the beginning of Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land pulls you in with infectious hits, the piano ballads of the second half of the album take a few listens to really get to the heart of the lyrics. ‘Highly Emotional People’ follows up with the same gorgeous lyrics that we heard on Love + Fear’s ‘To Be Human’. ‘New America’ bursts back in, taking down the myth of the American Dream with strings and scathing lyrics.

There are few stars like MARINA who find the balance between being unfiltered in their politics while also creating top-tier, intricate pop music. It’s authentic above all else - after all, these are topics that she’s been singing about since the very beginning of her career. There’s always a temptation to be detached from such political messages, but instead of including token political tracks, Marina creates a cohesive narrative by making even her most overt commentary deeply personal.

It really feels like Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land has something for everyone. MARINA has shown us a variety of sounds over the years and there’s a little bit of everything here – from bright, nostalgic '00s pop-rock to gentler piano ballads, as well as some excellent guitar work and songwriting that’s bolder than ever. What pulls all these elements together is a resolute sense of empowerment. With Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land, MARINA could easily be stepping into the summer with the album of the year.

Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land arrives 11 June via WMG.

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Photo: Press