She’s dropped the ‘Diamonds’, but she’s still got her shine. Marina is back with her fourth studio album, titled ‘Love + Fear’. Dropped in two parts – ‘Love’ and ‘Fear’ respectively – the ‘FROOT’ songstress claims: “It’s true that there only two primary emotions: love and fear, but it is more accurate to say that there is only love or fear for we cannot feel these two emotions together at exactly the same time. They are opposites.” As such, she suggested that we listen to the parts of the double album separately, in order to understand its true meaning.
The album opens with ‘Handmade Heaven’, the lead single. It’s a strong start. The track is uniquely Marina, keeping her angelic vocals to the forefront, whilst delving into themes of nature, anxiety and growth. It kicks the album off with a wildly positive theme; securing her as a confident yet humble individual. “In this handmade heaven I come alive / Blue birds forever colour the sky” is a beautiful piece of poetry masquerading as an alternate-pop song, and I’d expect nothing less from Miss Diamandis. Her lyricism has always been a focal point in her discography; churning out unusual melodies matched with strong visuals to paint an image in the listener’s mind. ‘Love + Fear’ is no exception; with gems like “my love is a planet revolving your heart” and “the missiles and the bombs sound like symphonies gone wrong”. Goosebumps.
Marina does a stellar job of analysing the themes of love on both a personal level and on a wider scale; looking back at her roots and her home, whilst on other tracks like ‘To Be Human’ (the absolute stand-out of the album), viewing the scope of humanity’s love on a global scale.
However, though her lyrical highs are just as good – if not better – than her three prior albums, her pitfalls are certainly worse. “Sit back and enjoy your problems / You don’t always have to solve them,” she sings on the uplifting track ‘Enjoy Your Life’. Though, just like the song’s title, the message is a little too on the nose. It’s frustrating to hear, as we know Marina is capable of singing the most beautiful metaphors – perhaps the best out of her peers – but this simple, obvious route does her no favours. There’s also the post-chorus to ‘Orange Trees’, which literally just repeats her singing “o-ooooorange, o-ooorange trees” over and over. Bizarre.
Having said that, the sound of the album is superb. The production is squeaky-clean, allowing her voice to really be the front-runner of the record. It allows us to glimpse at her carefully guarded personality, feeling as though Marina is working through her own issues to allow you to work through yours. It’s therapeutic, really. It’s as if you’re being sent away on an hour-long retreat with the singer in the middle of a forest to come to terms with your own views on both love and fear. The minimal production, can, at times, make the album feel almost empty – there’s a lot of unused space that other pop stars would’ve used to add catchy trap beats – but leaving it vacant was the right thing to do. The silence speaks louder than words ever could.
The track-list is pretty much perfect, too. Aside from the jarring jump to ‘Baby’ – the Clean Bandit collab which is also featured on their album – each song blends into each other perfectly. And, to be fair, ‘Baby’ sticks out like a sore thumb on the record, its sound so sonically and cohesive different from the other 15 tracks. But, it’s a bop, so we’ll let it slide.
The ‘Fear’ side of the album has some gut-punching themes to tackle, too. “I hate this city but I stay ’cause of you,” she sings on ‘Too Afraid’, never unafraid to be vocal about her mental health issues. It’s a simple line, sure, but it’s such a personal touch it really makes you emphasise with her. We journey with her through her fears and anxieties – fears of false friendships, her fear of never finding love, her fear of herself. When its time for the album to come to a close, she coos: “Finally, I feel the fear is gone.” Perhaps that’s the entire point. Realising our inner fears, accepting them, and then setting them free.
Reviewing ‘Love + Fear’ from an isolated perspective, separate from the preconceived notions of her prior three records, it’s a superb sixteen-track detailing of human emotion. Strip away the fans expectations of wanting another album filled with bops – ala ‘Electra Heart’ – and digesting the album for what is it – a thirty-three year old woman exploring the depths of her own psyche, and it’s a unique and refreshing experience.
‘Love + Fear’ is personal, palpable and less abstract than what we’ve come to expect of Marina, and it really shines because of it. This isn’t an album to listen to blindly, some vapid pop about wanting to dance or have sex or drink. No, Marina tackles heavy themes on ‘Love + Fear’, and it’s marvellous to see it executed so masterfully. After her brief hiatus from ‘FROOT’, she stated she’d only consider realising music if it mattered, on some level, to her. Well, Marina. It matters. She birthed this album from the soul, and it shows.