Review Summary: If I could buy forever at a price, I would buy it Thrice
Just to get some of the obvious items out of the way first: YES, the concept behind Electra Heart
was stupid. NO, that condemnation of concept did not render the album a turd (not even lyrically), although... YES, deep down, the electro-pop thing felt a bit forced, and more like some carefully orchestrated strike at the successes of many of Marina's so-called contemporaries (and one that, from a U.S. charting perspective, whiffed). But, alas... NO, reducing Electra Heart
to that would be to suggest that it is devoid of genuine tenderness and musical affectivity. I mean, "Lies" still breaks me down every time I hear it (and that acoustic version? pfsh...), and "Starring Role" and "Hypocrates" have the smae effect.
went in hard on the fleeting mania of its concept, and maybe it burned out pretty fast, but the core of it will live considerably longer.
The kicker here is that, despite all the conflict you may read into that first paragraph up there, Froot
, an album stripped of all the excesses of Electra Heart
and the equal-parts-guarded-and-grandiose introduction that characterized The Family Jewels
, is actually Marina's hardest to assess. That is to say: an album from her, chock full of unadulterated musings on life, love, lust, regret, and happiness (you know, real-life things that real people need
pop songs to cover) is much more difficult to contextualize when you're hearing them for the first time, or in a new light. I have been writing this review in my head over and over again for about a month, and have scrobbled the shit out of Froot
by now. I took it across the country on a drive with my sister, and I’ve been taking it to work with me just about every day. I have been racking my brain trying to place it between her previous two albums (just as every other review has done by now) and I really can’t.
So, basically, I give up. I'm not even going to try. If you know Marina's previous work and are looking for a bright-line rule as to which album this is closer to, then tough shit, because I can't even give you that.
The title track on Froot
is easily the most infectious, saccharine offering on the new album, and one of Marina's best songs yet. Looking back on it now ("Froot" had been released as the record’s introductory single, back in November of last year) it really was an inspired choice. Lyrically, this song is as weird as anything she’s done, playing the chosen metaphor to its grisly conclusion (in a manner that should now be familiar to Marina's fanbase). Musically though, the song’s sweeping choruses function to unwind, in each instance, the tight-laced verses they succeed, and the song progresses along quite nicely. This effect is actually harder to describe than it is to just invoke "Radioactive," (probably my favorite Marina track, which now has a sonic successor). Both songs are that rare kind of repetitive -- the kind where the numb, prolonged absence of viscera ends up having a more powerful effect by the time the song ends.
Notwithstanding the entire paragraph preceding this one, "Forget" is actually my favorite track on the record. The song, stylistically, would sit comfortably on her debut, for as she is re-introduced to a backing band, we re-discover just what she used to do with one (think "The Outsider"). The also-great "Weeds," a similar treatise on the messy, uncontrollable impressions we leave on one another, and "Better Than That" both recall that style in essentially the same fashion.
There is palpable growth beyond the nostalgia, though, which is a nice surprise. I had predicted a full-on retreat, actually, and had been expecting Jewels
: Part II. Instead, I find myself welcoming the more tempered approach she has taken on much of Froot
. Blending the light touch of her backing band with selectively applied electronic elements, Marina gives a more refined take on songs that in her past might have been layered in obtrusive electropop production or overwhelming string arrangements. See "Blue" and "Gold" for good examples of this-- two songs that would feel out of place on Jewels
Marina's vocal range has always been one of the most important things about her work, and this album, like its two predecessors, showcases its brilliance. In the end, the only thing that changes is the mechanism in which it's dressed, and that seems to fragment audiences in a manner I cannot say I completely understand. What is new, though, in the case of Froot
, is that it feels like Marina let the natural power of what's going on--in her life, in her bed, and in her mind--speak for itself.