Album Review: MARINA // Ancient Dreams In A Modern Land

Almost there but not quite right… While sonically the new Marina album may be beautiful, at times it’s lyrics can you baffled

MARINA is an artist known for an almost spotless discography of catchy and thoughtful music – her previous persona, Electra Heart, swallowing the public teenage consciousness throughout the 2010s.

After mixed reviews on her previous album Love + Fear, it was anyone guess where MARINA’s newest album, Ancient Dreams In A Modern Land, would take the artist. Surely, an artist with such a knack for tongue in cheek, satirical and political statements would be able to create something magical after a year of worldwide compressed trauma?

With Ancient Dreams In A Modern Land, clearly has a lot to say. She’s returning to nature, to femininity. She’s stickin’ it to the man. She’s a wise sage letting us know we live in a patriarchal capitalist hellscape, and she’s not wrong…

It’s just… We already know.

By about 4 songs in it feel like I’m hearing a lot of facts, and she’s struggling to fit in everything she wanted to. Just as if the music was written and she had too much to say. Choosing cheap rhymes and well-rinsed phrases to connect everything together.

At times you can’t help but cringe upon hearing lines like “I didn’t play their game for the money or the fame”, “People say men don’t cry. It’s so much easier to just lie” or “from every disaster you are not my master”. Similarly, “Harvey Weinstein gone to jail⁣⁣⁣, Me Too went on to unveil⁣⁣⁣” and “2007, waist size zero was the rage. Britney shaved her head and all we did was call her crazed” read like the song you would sing in an assembly in year 6 about all the crazy times you had as a year group. Her looking back feels contextless, not expanding or explaining why she’s touching on those subjects, undermining whatever message she is trying to portray.

Each song on the album has been sorted to have a lyrical theme – ‘Highly Emotional People’ is about men being told not to cry, ‘I Love You But I Love Me More’ is about a man who is a bad partner, ‘Man’s World’ is about the patriarchy, men controlling everything, and how she wants out… But on the whole, there doesn’t particularly seem to be a lyrical journey within each song, just a list of things she was thinking about. Which, now I think about it, seems to be men… oh, and the government.

Due to this we lose the point and the emotion behind each song becomes unsatisfactory. This isn’t helped when the next line over rhymes “smile” and “while”, or “norm”, “born” and “conform” in a pretty obvious ABAB rhyming pattern. In fact, bizarrely, she rhymes “witch” with “bitch” on both “Purge The Poison” and “Man’s World” without really going any further into depth, just touching on the same idea both times and moving on.

Singing “America, America, America, you can’t bury the truth it’s time to pay your dues” could potentially land quite well in a different context, but with little to show we have reached the chorus, it becomes underwhelming. There are some really great moments, for sure, but along with the album’s distinct lack of hooks and catchy choruses that MARINA is usually known for, everything feels pretty elementary.

‘Pandora’s Box’ and ‘I Love You But I Love Me More’ are highlights, almost escaping this album’s simplicity curse, but it doesn’t help that they’re sat within a jumbled selection of songs, reminiscent of someone that has just discovered the government is doing bad things.

On a different note, the music, of course, is beautiful. The production is really impressive, with a running theme of shuffling beats and funky, stomping bass. MARINA sometimes seems to use bizarre, dissonant and unexpected note choices that create an unnerving contrast to the warmth of the music, confronting you like I assume the lyrics are meant to. The guitar solo within I Love You But I love Me More is a real pinnacle of the album- it’s dark and brooding in a really passionate way, elevating the song to another level.

The sonic elements of the album are pretty cohesive, creating a dystopian world, which I appreciate as a listener. It’s just a shame that the vocal elements leave a lot to be desired.

It’s almost there, but it’s just not quite right.


Ancient Dreams In A Modern Land is available to download and stream now

Author avatar
Chloe Spinks

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