Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land is out on Atlantic Records
From the left-field confessionals of The Family Jewels to the world-weary lyricism of Love + Fear, Marina has always been an anomaly in pop music. One constant in her work, however, has always been her assertively original point of view. Even when her sound got particularly commercial on 2012’s cult classic Electra Heart, her attempts at pure pop were delivered with a sly wink, incorporating lyrical themes and visuals subtly questioning the system she seemingly wanted to be a part of, while perpetuating the undeniable singularity that set Diamandis apart. With her new record, however, subtlety is long gone. Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land is a rallying cry for justice in all its forms– tackling existentialism, toxic masculinity, government corruption, and the #MeToo movement, all within its first twenty minutes.
Fans of the Welsh songstress will be pleased to hear a return to the quirky individualism of her earlier work, albeit with more polish. Over a band of harpsichord, retro synths, and relentless drums, Marina proudly states her mission to the world on the opening and title track. “You don’t have to be like everybody else, you don’t have to fit into the norm, you are not here to conform,” she sings, harkening back to such staples as “Mowgli’s Road” and “Hermit the Frog” The track is pure exhilarating fun and showcases Marina’s knack for creating tracks that are as catchy as they are thought-provoking.
Watch the “Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land” visualizer
“Venus Fly Trap,” meanwhile, is the self-affirming anthem you might’ve thought only Electra Heart, her peroxide blonde alter-ego, could deliver. With lines like, “Got the beauty, got the brains, got the power, hold the reins, I should be motherfuckin’ crazy,” it is arguably the most tongue-in-cheek thing Marina has written in years.
“Purge the Poison” and “New America” follows suit, as Marina confronts the global problems head-on, from Covid to Weinstein. Over a fast-paced, punkish beat and infectious guitar licks, Marina’s pleas to “Purge the poison from our system, until human beings listen” sound almost comical in her camp, operatic delivery. Still, the striking nature of these tracks undeniably makes you sit up and take notice.
Nevertheless, Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land does have its more somber moments. “Man’s World,” for example, is one of the best ballads of Marina’s career. Tackling the patriarchy over grand pianos and swooping strings, she cries out. While her lyrics speak of “mother nature dying” and “sheiks who killed thousands of gay men,” the music transcends, suggesting a feminine future that may be closer than we think. ‘The planet has a funny way of stopping a fight,” she sings. And, you know what? We believe her.
Watch the “Man’s World” music video
Similarly, “Highly Emotional People” is a stunning track that serves to remind those who don’t value their feelings. “Emotions are a part of our design” rings out as glorious synths ebb and flow. The track has an almost hymn-like quality and is sure to appeal to those who loved Froot’s slow burners. While “Pandora’s Box” runs the risk of treading similar ground musically, Marina’s skills as a songwriter keep the momentum going, using the infamous artifact as a metaphor for mental health.
It is also at the album’s midway point that Marina shifts gears, launching a suite of gorgeous ballads that seem to chronicle a breakup. “I Love You But I Love Me More” is an immediate diamond of a track, with Marina valuing self-love over a former lover’s. The chorus has the kind of earworm that sounds like it has always existed, and lyrically, it is brutally honest. “You try to tell me that we’re so deep in love. Well, if we were, then why did we fuck it up?” she asks. It is easy to imagine this track getting the “Summertime Sadness” remix treatment, just in time for the clubs to reopen this summer.
Stream “I Love You But I Love Me More”
Whereas “Flowers” is a deceptively simple ballad that only reveals itself with subsequent listens. Marina’s lyricism and knack for melody is the true star of the show as she laments the end of her relationship over the twinkling of a piano. “If you just brought me flowers, maybe I would have stayed, I wouldn’t have walked away” feels like a real gut punch as she repeats the lines over and over in her signature upper register. It is the kind of show-stopping ballad that is as personal as it is universal.
Bittersweet closer “Goodbye,” meanwhile, is classic Marina that can be interpreted in multiple ways. Is this a farewell to her former lover, goodbye to the “girl that she was,” or a message to fans? The line “I’ve been a mother to everyone else, every motherfucker except myself, and I don’t even have any kids / Goodbye to the girl that I’ve been” suggests there are new projects in Marina’s future that may not necessarily be music-related.
Overall, Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land takes the best of Marina’s previous records and packages them into one swift, cohesive ride. While the record treads old ground musically, the lyrical content is the true shining star, set in the here and the now. From the political aspirations of “Purge the Poison” to the universal theme of heartbreak in its final leg, Ancient Dreams truly feels like the quintessential Marina experience and is bound to appeal to diehard fans and new listeners alike. Stream Marina’s new album, Ancient Dreams In A Modern Land, here and see more on Soundazed.