Marina’s 2021 album, Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land, sounds like the revelations of a searcher upon returning from a long journey. It’s Marina Diamandis' second album since the Welsh singer-songwriter ascended to a mononymous moniker, shedding Marina and the Diamonds, and it feels like her most urgently fed-up collection of songs yet.
However while Ancient Dreams is ready to do battle, it hasn’t shorn away any femininity to do so.
Marina’s music sees strength in softness. She’s always encouraged young girls, gays, and theys to resist conformity and rebel against the status quo. Furthermore, Ancient Dreams was produced and performed by an all-woman team—a move more revolutionary in practice than in theory. It seems like a no-brainer, but the music industry at large still doesn’t equitably support woman-led projects.
Ancient Dreams' highest energy songs feel like anthems for a self-reliant 80’s film heroine returning to save the day. The opening title track points to the global and cosmic, calling on listeners to abandon the patterns that no longer serve. “Highly Emotional People” and “I Love You But I Love Me More” dole out heartfelt hope that labors undertaken can now result in a changed future, however long that takes.
Songs like “New America” point out that our necessities-turned-luxuries supply situation is proof that getting rid of Trump didn’t fix all the country’s problems, while Marina donates the second verse of “Man’s World” to the chorus of voices condemning the Sultan of Brunei for his country’s track record of homophobic violence, and his hypocritical part-ownership of the Beverly Hills Hotel.
On “Goodbye,” the album’s closer, the mood turns tender, flaming up into a torch song for an ego death funeral. The lens turned inward looks on self-love and the vast difference between learning about it and actually enacting it. “I’ve been a mother to everyone else / to every motherfucker but myself / and I don’t even have any kids,” Marina sings.
Much of Ancient Dreams feels in conversation with Marina’s classics. For instance, “Flowers” is a direct sequel to Froot’s “Weeds.” And the album’s “Venus Fly Trap” turns up the bratty man-eater charm found on Electra Heart’s “Bubblegum Bitch” or The Family Jewels’ “Girls.”
Marina channeled pre-pandemic dread into a plan for action on Ancient Dreams’ pop manifesto and she’ll preach it in Portland this Saturday February 5th, as she makes a stop on her tour promoting Ancient Dreams’ deluxe release, which features three new songs and two demos. The concert won’t be a greatest hits night, but a show celebrating the strength and resiliency of the feminine as the basis of a new way forward.
Marina’s "Live From the Desert" performance, which she live-streamed from the California desert last year, demonstrated her shifted but unshakeable perspective on remaining true to yourself when everything else demands change—alongside stellar vocals with polished pop precision.
Undoubtedly seeing her live again after nearly three years—this time bringing with her the Swedish electropop singer Tove Styrke—will be a joyous reunion for Marina’s devoted fans, who haven’t seen her since 2019’s "Love + Fear" stop at the Schnitz. Despite rumors that Pussy Riot would also be on this sacred femme bill, they won’t actually be joining up until New York.
Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay, Sat Feb 5, 8pm, $42.50 - $59.50, tickets & info here; w/Tove Styrke