2015 has been a generally safe year for pop music. Most new releases have tended toward repeats of what we’ve gotten on the charts rather extensively in the last few years, but the only record I’ve enjoyed this year thus far has been the album by Marina and the Diamonds.
Marina Diamandis first caught my attention in early 2013, when I decided to look over the most popular pop music albums released in 2012. Her sophomore release, Electra Heart, was one of those listened. My personal opinion was that the album was relatively mediocre—I’m no fan of Dr. Luke’s production skills, and the songwriting felt a bit weak. But since this year hasn’t impressed me much in terms of film, music, or literary releases, I’ve had to lower my standards for enjoyment, which is how I stumbled upon the album:
Titled Froot and released March 13, 2015, Diamandis has crafted a record that feels both catchy and accessible while also personal and introspective. This is mainly due to Diamandis abandoning the hitmakers, choosing instead to work with a single producer (in this case, David Kosten) and writing every song herself. Musically, it holds solid: the opening ballad, “Happy,” may seem like an odd choice, but the muted production and close, intimate vibe through vocals and the piano playing serves as a solid introduction to Diamandis’s songwriting and her soft, beautiful vocals. The rest of the record are ballads and more uptempo pop tracks, with some expressive melodies; some songs ("Weeds") contain excellent background harmonies. This works for me because no two songs sound exactly alike. As all were written and composed by Marina Diamandis herself, she proves to have impressive songwriting skills.
The best quality of the album are Diamandis’s lyrics—this is a record where she pours her heart out. Subjects include breakups, self-esteem, new love, and, in the final two tracks, human nature. These are obviously serious subjects, and they are handled with grace and care. Diamandis for the most part has a very gentle and sympathetic tone, never lecturing; even in the nihilistic “Savages,” where she laments humanity’s obsession with war and inequality, she paints herself just as much a part of the human race she is condemning. Lyrically this song also contains my favorite lines:
Underneath it all we’re just savages
Hidden behind shirts, ties, and marriages.
How can we expect anything at all?
We’re just animals still learning how to crawl
Is a human trait or is it learned behavior?
Are you killing for yourself or killing for your savior?
Perhaps my favorite part of the album was Marina Diamandis herself. She is an excellent vocalist: her voice glides perfectly over her melodies, with perfect enunciation and tone. Her voice is expressive, giving off joy, regret, sadness, and horror. Her operatic vocals on “Savages” gave me vibes of Kate Bush.
Taken as a whole, Froot is an accomplished release by a talented singer-songwriter who deserves more success than she’s seen thus far. I’ve never heard her debut, The Family Jewels, but perhaps I should since other critics have said that album is closer to this one. It’s not perfect—the track order feels off, while the titular track, “Froot,” and a song or two just don’t work. But what it does accomplish it does very successfully. I give this a glowing recommendation.
Favorite tracks: “I’m a Ruin,” “Forget,” “Can’t Pin Me Down,” “Weeds,” “Savages,” and “Immortal”
Score: 4/5 or 8/10