Friday, 30 July 2010

Marina and the Diamonds

There is clearly something in the water that trickles down those Welsh valleys that produces more singers than I’ve had hot dinners. Dame Shirley Bassey and Thomas the Jones became international stars eons ago and even now the well, to stretch an analogy, has not dried up. Since then we have marvelled at ‘Voice of an Angel’ Charlotte Church, had fragile chanteuse Duffy (retired?) grace us with her presence and now we have Marina Diamandis.

Born to a Greek father and Welsh mother in Abergavenny in the decade of big hair and shoulder pads, she is the latest in a line of Welsh musicians to entertain us with those Celtic vowels. Under the stage name of Marina and the Diamonds, she and her band played an entrancing set on the John Peel Stage at Glastonbury this year and as a consequence, I have been listening to her debut album, ‘The Family Jewels’.

From what I gather, the ‘The Diamonds’ bit of her name is not her backing band but represents her fans, so says she, presumably in the same manner as Lady Gaga’s ‘Little Monsters’. Accordingly, the musicians she plays with form a somewhat fluid community but certainly the guys who played at Glasto were an exceptionally tight little keyboard-led ensemble who underpinned her rather quirky songs with real panache. I’d keep hold of them, if I were you, Marina.

Those of you who read these missives will, no doubt, be pleased to see the return of the Music Obsessive Influences Pie-Chart from which you will gather that Marina’s vocal style is towards the idiosyncratic end of the spectrum being possessed of a pleasingly rich contralto (or possibly mezzo-soprano, what do I know?) with an indefinable touch of the Greek about it which can soar into the heights and back quite effortlessly.

The songs on the album are probably best described as hook-laden pop tunes with overtones of Sparks and Lene Lovitch. In fact, with all this quirkiness going on it is all too easy to believe that it is all a front to catch the media eye and this may be so especially as her songs are designed to give a feelgood vibe. Nevertheless, there is a darker side lurking in the lyrics which gives a glimpse into a potential depth of talent that is not so apparent at first hearing. Certainly, I found the studio versions of the songs slightly less immediate than the live versions I had witnessed on stage and that bodes well. She is clearly an artist that thrives in a live environment where the performance and relationship with the audience allows her to add nuances to the content and add value to the experience.

I shall be intrigued to see where her career takes her. Take a look at her Glastonbury set-closer, ‘Guilty’, a song that seems innocuous enough, but then goes on growing in the mind until you are completely hooked and see what you think. Now, where did I put that bottled Welsh spring water?


luminous muse said...

Very nice song and singer. Odd stage presence though, a little choreographed for my taste.

If you keep turning me on to these female singers I'm going to go broke.

music obsessive said...

Luminous - glad you liked it. Actually, I like odd performers and at least she didn't feel the need to pack the stage with 'dancers'.

I'm trying not to bankrupt you - there's always Spotify! (and the remainder of this fab set is on YouTube and well worth a look.

Kit Courteney said...

Initially, I was thinking 5% Bjork (with a deeper voice).

Interesting. Not my sort of thing, necessarily, but interesting nonetheless!

music obsessive said...

Hi Kit. Yes, a little bit Bjork but too small to get into my pie as the labels pop out if the slice is too small!

Glad you thought it worth a look even if it's not your thing. Personally, I shall look forward to seeing what she does next, the jury's out.