The time has finally come. More than four years after her last record — 2015’s statement-making FROOT — MARINA has released her fourth album, LOVE + FEAR. Conceptually revolving around Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ theory that the aforementioned emotions are the only two that humans are capable of experiencing, the record is split into two, eight-song halves; while the front half features happier and more uplifting lyrics with docile soundscapes, the back half enjoys more uptempo tracks set to darker, muscular production. An intriguing dichotomy somewhat unexplored in pop music, the singer embraces everything love and fear have to offer her across the album’s hour-long runtime.
Lead single “Handmade Heaven” opens the record, setting the stage for LOVE’s themes: examining purpose, contentedness, and a connection to nature. These motifs pop up most prominently in tracks like “Orange Trees” and “Enjoy Your Life,” taking each topic to their logical conclusion to brilliant effect. Other songs such as “Superstar” and “End of the Earth” tackle the singer’s relationships head on, comparing love to both a cosmic force and a world-ender in its own right. Despite being deeply personal, LOVE tends to coast on its own merits, leaving listeners wanting for more.
They find their thirst quenched on FEAR, thankfully. Pairing more aggressive production with macabre lyrics, the tracks here add a necessary layer to the record’s philosophical aims: “Life Is Strange” melodically harks back to The Family Jewels (MARINA’s 2010 debut), “Karma” is a takedown of predators that hold positions of authority in the music industry, and “Emotional Machine” provides the thesis statement of FEAR. While the singer’s operatic vocals are as powerful as ever on the album, but she tries on differing styles throughout this collection to beautiful effect; “Believe in Love” and “No More Suckers” employ a whispered delivery, something completely absent from the rest of her discography. At once a standard pop record and something outside of that sphere, LOVE + FEAR is at times a frustrated listen, but that’s exactly what MARINA intended it to be.
Standout tracks: “Superstar,” “Enjoy Your Life,” “Karma,” “No More Suckers”