Marina & The Diamonds ***Moved To Skyway Theatre***

Marina & The Diamonds

Thundering, stellar electronic... magnetic, glacial vocals...whip-smart, womanly, lyrical wit... jokes as good as 'The Valley of The Lolls'...

Marina and The Diamonds second album, 'Electra Heart', is not so much a creative leap forward, more an Olympian pole-vault over the bar of talented-newcomer into the global amphitheatre of a cultivated Classic. Two years on from her top 5 debut 'The Family Jewels' (300,000 copies sold), the self-styled avant-garde "D.I.Y artist" has detonated her own experimental past and landed feet first in the future with 'Electra Heart', a stunningly ambitious, seamless, cohesive and confident sonic pulsar spinning between electro-pop euphoria and come-down melancholia. The album is produced by a cache of old school and A-List producers: Dr Luke (Katy Perry) and Liam Howe (Sneaker Pimps) but mostly (9 out of 12 songs) Greg Kurstin (Lily Allen, Kylie) and Rick Nowels (Madonna, Stevie Nicks, Lykke Li). A hook-packed stunner with the sonic ambition of a one-woman Depeche Mode, her onetime theatrical vocals now effortlessly soar between spectral, commanding and towering power-pop, finding her vocal identity in an album about a loss of it.

"I wanted to challenge myself, I have consciously done everything I set out not to, originally" says Marina. "Sing about Love. Work in the world of American Pop. Co-write. It was a really enjoyable period in my life. The music has energy and aggression and my vocals are much more controlled and detached... It's lyrically quite bitter, but comically so. I love black humour".

'Electra Heart' is a thematic riot, a British Eccentric, 21st Century concept caper where the album title represents a series of female archetypes, not so much an alter-ego as a beautifully-constructed prism, through which Marina projects a series of meticulously-realised female characters as a foil for telling her story, the one about mismatched lovers.
"'Electra Heart' is an Ode to dysfunctional love," she explains. "I based the project around character types commonly found in love stories, film and theatre. I guess it was a way of dealing with the embarrassment that, for the first time in my life, I got 'played'. Rejection is a universally embarrassing topic and Electra Heart is my response to that, creating character types to enable me to express personal experiences I would never confess in real life. Weakness and defeat in love are things I don't particularly want talk about, so I guess I've written a whole album about it. Whatever an artist does not want to admit, that is what the artist writes about. It's a very frank album but hopefully funny too"

The songs, mostly recorded in L.A in 2011, were written on-the-road through America in 2010, teased into life on Marina's £100 keyboard or sung into her lap-top in the back of her tour-bus bedroom, "watching the corn fields flying by and making sense of the message that American culture employs; that you can be anyone and do anything, go anywhere and lose yourself- start afresh and forget whatever the truth is". The song titles tell the story -- from throbbing first single 'Primadonna' to the robo-pop of 'Bubblegum Bitch' to the haughty spoken-word soliloquies of 'Homewrecker' -- a fantasy roll-call of "fairly vengeful characters". These are inspired by her love for American Pop culture's artifice, "I am attracted to emptiness, to the fake in us. Aside from love, perception and deception are central themes in "Electra Heart", that's why I changed my hair- because the archetypal star is always blonde". She says " I used to think of the female superstars, Marilyn, Madonna, Britney Spears, and wonder if they would have had the same career paths if they had been brunettes" and her uncharacteristic behaviour in a brief but life-altering relationship, where she changed herself to comply with a boy's ideals to win his heart. "The type of girl who maintains a level of artifice and illusion in order to hold his intrigue. I am nothing like that. I was sad to pretend I was someone else all the time".

Hence the many faces of 'Electra Heart' and her revolving door persona. It's also a visual project, with vast, camp and cerebral touchstones as befits her analytical brain: "Cindy Sherman, Jenny Holzer, Dolly Parton, Chuck Pahlaniuk, Madonna, Jayne Mansfield's Pink Palace, Valley of the Dolls, Pierre Et Gilles, Britney Spears, Love... Boys... Fear." She's also created a website, 'The: Archetypes', featuring images of 'Electra Heart' split into four character-type categories: "The Homewrecker", "Su-Barbie-A", "Teen Idles" and "Stars & Queens". All fabulous hair, kitschy 50's costumes and a pun-tastic way with a caption, from "Miss Shellfish Beach 1985" and "Mother's Ruined" to "VALLEY OF THE LOLS."

Welsh by birth, kaleidoscopic by nature, Marina Diamandis is a serial college drop-out who once dressed up as a boy to audition for a reggae boy-band, hoping to amuse the record label into signing her. After further failed auditions (girl bands, musicals), in a fit of ambitious pique, she taught herself piano and created Marina and The Diamonds in 2005 (it's just her, the Diamonds are the audience). She was a MySpace generation D.I.Y powerhouse who hand-made and sold her own CDs to Rough Trade until being signed to Warner Music Group's '679 Recordings' in 2008. Acclaimed overnight as an intriguing, confrontational and theatrical amalgam of Kate Bush and PJ Harvey, she was nominated in 2010 for both the Brits Critic's Choice Award and the BBC Sound of 2010. She looks back on her early years, now, with some ambivalence. "I experimented with my voice a lot, I was young, amateurish and ambitious" she decides. "I feel different now. My voice is far more controlled and my writing style has matured. For me, it's a real, coherent step-up. I would love to one day be a great artist."

2012, then, sees her reach her potential as an outstanding British song-writing talent and dazzling pop performer, an uncompromising spirit and pop-art intellectual who singlehandedly fashions the ideas for her art-work, videos, website content and striking live performances. In 2012 she embarks on both a UK headline tour and as support to the mighty Coldplay, jet-packed onto the mainstream stage on their colossal European Stadium Tour, at the band's personal request. The concept of 'Electra Heart', meanwhile, below its multi-fold messages, is deceptively simple. "It just about love" she concludes. "Every one of us relates to love songs. To being hurt. But I wanted to chronicle it in a raw and truthful way, almost make a (visual) gimmick out of the thing I feared most. Everything else is just based around my love for photography, sharp humour and a fascination with transient identities. If you are who you are, then why do you change around certain people? Why do we spend our entire lives trying to become ourselves, when we are born as no one else? I always want to try and cement who I am. But I never can. That's why I write songs"
She also, incidentally, enjoys a curious neurological condition called synaesthesia which means associating musical notes, numbers and days of the week with colour. So what colour is Tuesday?

"Tuesday is green," she assures, as befits a proper pop star.

"Before, it felt finished. Now, it feels perfect. It's feels like a proper thing."

The proper thing on the mind of 20-year-old shooting star Charli XCX is an album long in the making, one which finally sees the light of day in 2013. The wait has been as agonising for Charli as it has been for her fanbase -- rapidly swelling on both sides of the Atlantic ? but patience has paid handsome dividends. The debut album she releases in 2013 -- perhaps unlike the album she could have released in 2012, or even 2011 -- finds XCX's vision fully realised. Sweeping synths, crunchy beats, emotive vocals, coy raps, spiky and persuasive lyricism and big ideas about life, love and everything else: The album tracks (and soundtracks) Charli's journey from teenager to young woman, but deftly swerves coming-of-age cliches.

"There were all these questions while I was making the album," Charli recalls. "Like how can I twist something mundane to something really amazing that's never been done before? How can I make beautiful pieces of pop? How can I just let my mind go and let all the colours flow out?" Many of the answers have only really appeared in the last twelve months as Charli's vision has finally come into focus. And now the album is finished, its ample vindication for one of Charli's most firmly-held beliefs: "We need to reboot British girl power."

Honed during support slots for artists like Sleigh Bells, Santigold and Coldplay, Charli's live performances, like her music, are raw but multi-layered, sometimes stark but with a clear beating human heart. Her collaborators -- Ariel Rechtshaid (Haim, Usher, Alex Clare, Solange Knowles), Patrik Berger (Lana Del Rey, Robyn), J£zus Million and Blood Diamonds -- have helped unlock a unique talent. All pop is here, from Siouxsie to Spiceworld, The Knife to Nirvana. To achieve her intricate, post-modern pop with its evocative titles like 'Nuclear Seasons', 'Stay Away' and 'You (Ha Ha Ha)' she is a lightning rod, pulling influences out of the sky and channelling them into the crunchy beats, fuzzy synths, bittersweet melodies and idiosyncratic perspectives that combine in the absorbing multi-media output of this compelling new artist.

Charli's world view is splashed in vivid colours across her artwork, her videos and her Tumblr but with a dark edge. Her personal style she describes as "Wednesday Addams meets Winona Ryder in Beetlejuice meets Baby Spice". She obsesses about Pierre et Giles and David La Chapelle, just two of the names whose work she fell in love with at art school. "I love hyperrealism in every aspect of what I do," she says. She'll also look to her favourite films -- The Craft, Carrie, Party Monster, Clueless -- for inspiration. The brilliant but brutal 'How Can I' is directly influenced by Carrie. "I think of John Travolta being a dick, and that sweet guy with the terrible hair dancing, and the moment when she goes apeshit at the end. It's like 'how can I fix what I fucked up?' Well, Carrie, you can't. You are now dead in a grave with your hand poking out'."

As we know, Charli XCX's story is no overnight success. In 2006, when Charli was 14 she organised her live performances through MySpace and regaled crowds with "nursery rhyme-esque rap pieces with me shouting 'DINOSAUR SEX!' while standing on a crate in a warehouse". As a live promoter her dad had, once upon a time, booked acts like Bob Marley and Siouxsie & The Banshees at his club nights, but even he couldn't prepare Charli for the parties she found herself performing at. "Call me sheltered," she says, "but at 14 I'd never dreamed that I'd be singing while people were running around half naked on ketamine squirting each other with glitter guns."

Her life split in two. During the day she'd be at school -- she loved art, hated music ("an awful dictatorship") -- and afterwards she'd write songs and produce raw demos in the bedroom of her parents' house. By night, she'd be in London in a "colourful, glittery world that didn't really mean that much, but never claimed to either". Soon songs called things like 'Art Bitch' and (in reference to a crap girl from school) '!Franchesckaar!', created quite a buzz even soundtracking catwalk shows in London and New York for the likes of Marc Jacobs and Victoria's Secret. For Interview magazine, she was photographed by David Bailey in a skintight Pam Hogg creation ("I had no idea what I was doing and left my pants on, so there's a huge knickerline!"). These were exciting times, and then... Well, she'll admit it now -- she just didn't have enough decent songs. The buzz buzzed off, as it does. In the unforgiving world of next big things, some thought Charli XCX had disappeared. "So did I!" she roars today, laughing her head off. "It was tough, and frustrating. I had a period of just asking myself, 'how do I get out of this rut?'."

Charli met Ariel Rechtshaid on a trip to LA and wrote and recorded 'Stay Away' in their first morning together. The song marked a turning point, going a long way to defining her sound and causing blog fever when posted on line. Soon afterwards she travelled to Sweden to work with Patrik Berger who sent her some tracks the day before the session. She was instantly captivated by one of them, wrote to it all night in her hotel room, and the next day turned up to meet Patrik with 'You're the One', another key release and now a live favourite (She also wrote the global hit IconaPop song 'I Love It' that same night). As Charli hit her stride she grew to realise that her early stuff -- the parties, her diy releases, the jumping up and down shouting about dinosaurs -- wasn't a false start, just a chance to experiment when nobody was looking. "If I'd rushed to put out more songs when I was younger I know I'd be regretting it now," she admits, "but I know that I'll never fall out of love with 'Stay Away'."

Between starting and finishing the album she found herself listening to acts on the fringes of pop like Salem, Purity Ring, Hercules & Love Affair, Art Of Noise's 'The Seduction of Claude Debussy', and through collaborating with Ariel Charli had discovered the a darker, less transient style she'd been heading towards for the previous few years. "I'm fascinated by pop music being picture-perfect on the outside and warped and fucked up underneath," she explains, and it's a stance that's hard to ignore when immersed in her debut album. For instance there's 'You're The One' ("the ultimate 'wow I'm so in love that I'm exploding from every orifice' song"), but then there's 'Stay Away' ("the flipside, the dark side when it's emotionally heavy and it gets warped and fucked"). And then, she adds, there are "party jams, but not bad party jams that make you hate the world. They're not 'I'm in a club with my ho's', they're 'I'm in a Japanese club filled with amazing neons and I feel like I'm in the 80s but I'm not'."

2011 and 2012 were all about perfecting the sound, and honing her impressive live show. The Alex Metric collaboration 'End Of The World' created the right ripples in the right places, while the low-key release of 'Nuclear Seasons' (complete with a video made by Charli and her film-maker boyfriend over a weekend in Wales, that brought Charli's vision to life in broad, epic, colourful-but-distressed strokes), as well as contributing a song to the soundtrack of British movie Elfie Hopkins all added to Charli's momentum. "Some of my music is still very teen orientated -- I'm still pretty much a teenager -- but there's love in there and darker thoughts in terms of relationships," she says of her album "True Romance," due out later in the year. "And there are still couple of fuck you songs on there -- I have a lot of up days and a lot of fuck-the-world days, so there are party jams and dark warped depressing songs."

In 2013 XCX sees herself slotting in alongside sparky teenage girls who grew up in the shadow of the Spice Girls -- think artists like Grimes and Sky Ferreira, and who seem inspired by the useful bits of girl power. "90s kids are pretty fucking cool when it comes to music," Charli notes, "and pop's being taken seriously again now, which is exactly what it deserves".

Any other ambitions? Well, apart from continuing to write and create with people who inspire her, there's also Charli longing to have "these huge industrial fans on stage with loads of streamers that kind of turn and it's a bit epic, and there are glitter cannons and coloured smoke that make it completely apocalyptic". So if you see that happening on stage at any point, you'll know everything's going to plan. Until then there's an album of abnormally excellent, forward-facing pop that creates its own universe just as effortlessly as it will fit into yours.

$28.00 - $35.00


Due to overwhelming demand the Marina & The Diamonds show on May 19 has been moved to the Skyway Theater. All tickets purchased for the Varsity show will be honored. More tickets will be made available Friday, February 15 @ 10am at The Skyway Theater is located at 711 Hennepin Avenue in the heart of the historic theater district in downtown Minneapolis.

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Marina & The Diamonds ***Moved To Skyway Theatre*** with Charli XCX

Sunday, May 19 · Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM at Skyway Theatre