mon 08/08/2022

Albums of the Year 2021: Marina - Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land | reviews, news & interviews

Albums of the Year 2021: Marina - Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land

Albums of the Year 2021: Marina - Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land

Newly Los Angeles-based Brit pop star goes right over-the-top in the best way

Yes, it is still a terrible cover...

We did that whole state-of-things COVID/Brexit/anxiety/neurosis blah-blah in the end-of-year pieces last year. And, indeed, the year before (when Bozza was elected). Not this year. I’m over that. Let’s crack on. Live life. Own it. All that. An equivalent bullishness of tone, filtered through a defiantly feminine aesthetic, rules Marina Diamandis’s fifth album (she of Marina and the Diamonds).

Or, at least, the parts of it that aren’t concerned with “highly emotional people” or mourning the end of her five year relationship with Clean Bandit’s Jack Patterson.

It’s an outrageous album; preposterous, attitude-laden, camp, romantic, strident, gorgeous, gutsy, opulent, girl-powered, arch, hammy, ridiculously tuneful, vocally slipping between operatic soprano and belligerent sass-mouth, every song a killer, somewhere between Sparks, Lady Gaga and glitter-bespattered jukebox musical theatre, with a dash of indie-rock thrown in for good measure.

Check these lyrics from “New America”: “Fucked with the food chain/Fucked with the farming too/And now our food don’t taste/Like it’s meant to do/They’ve got blood on their hands/’Cause they stole all the land.” Trite but spot on. That’s the great thing about absurdly committed ultra-pop; combine such verses with an over-the-top emotive strut and there’s gold.

It may be my most-played album of the year but no-one I know agrees with my assessment. It didn't exactly set the charts alight either. This, of course, is partly why I write this, the notion of shining a light on a lost gem. There are other albums I’ve enjoyed equally that fall into the peer and music journo approved. Top among these is the relentlessly inventive and exciting debut album from Brighton band Squid, which comes on like a fevered punk-infused fusion of Cardiacs and Stump. I dislike prog but this album has it in its bloodstream yet wins the day!

Two that came out at the start of 2021 but kept returning to the stereo are Californian artist Skyway Man’s The World Only Ends When You Die (lush, gospel-tinted indie-psyche) and Viagra Boys' stomping electro-punk-blues Welfare Jazz, while The Specials surprised with a deliciously raw collection of cover versions, Protest Songs 1924 – 2012.

Unless done by Daft Punk, I usually loathe anything connected with revisiting Eighties yacht rock, Hall & Oates, all that, but my favourite tune to dance around the living room after too many ales has been the ultra-slick retro-pop of French-American duo Møme & Ricky Ducati’s “They Said” from their Flashback FM album. Such evocative, longing pop sometimes sets me free... for this writer, 2021 has been about balancing ragin’ real world engagement with escaping everything in exactly this way.

Two More Essential Albums from 2021

Squid – Bright Green Field

The Specials – Protest Songs 1924 - 2012

Musical Experience of the Year

Gigs came back and I’ve hugely enjoyed them, equally buzzed by the gusto of hungry audiences. But my favourite musical experience of 2021 was a wild, tight-as-guitar-strings, ceilidh-style folk hoedown courtesy of a band called The Raggles which I randomly stumbled into with a gang of friends one boozy October Sunday at The Carew Arms pub in the Somerset village of Crowcombe.

Track of the Year

Møme & Ricky Ducati – "They Said"

Watch the video for "Purge the Poison" by Marina

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