The Family Jewels
Welsh singer/songwriter Marina Diamandis commands the spotlight from the opening track “Are You Satisfied?” onwards, alternately lusting after fame and recoiling from its trappings. Her elastic vocal presence — capable of sweet trills and throaty lows — brings out the feverish elation and biting mockery of her lyrics. Along the way, the ultra-caffeinated grooves of “Girls,” “Oh No!,” “Mowgli’s Road” and “Shampain” grab at the body as well as tease the mind. Beyond the dazzling surface of these tunes, Marina is capable of dissecting twisted relationships (“Obsessions,” “Hermit the Frog”) or tossing off snarky satire (“Hollywood”) with a merciless touch. When not giving herself a pep talk, she is prone to brutal introspection, as “Guilty” shows. “I Am Not a Robot” deserves special praise for its cool shimmer and yearning heart. Taking cues from everyone from Kate Bush to Gwen Stefani and Kate Nash, The Family Jewels ultimately stands on its own thanks to Marina’s smart, self-aware songs and the album’s sleek, hard-pumping production. Straight up, this album is a gem.