Thursday, 19 February 2009

marina + the diamonds @ pure groove

Last week saw the relaunch of Pure Groove's store in Farringdon. I previously voiced my concerns as to how the store would cope, given their selective stocking policy. They have surpassed my expectations though. I arrived late to a bustling Smithsfield for the secret Marina + The Diamonds show. Derek of Neon Gold had given me the heads-up on what was going to be his baby's first live show with a new lineup, ready to take 2009 by storm in the war of female songstresses.

Let me first describe the store. Gone is the Top 100, an elaborately designed method of showcasing the Pure Groove crew's favourites. It's been replaced by your average shop counter, that also doubles up as a bar. This is a stroke of genius, amusingly turning your trusty record-shop worker into a bartender. The deliberation over which beverage to drink becomes a distracted process, as the CDs and vinyls positioned above the fridges also jostle for your attention. As well as these benefits, it turns the low-key instore gig into something far more riotous; the intimate atmosphere more appropriate to more familiar venues, except without the dark corners and sticky floors. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out when the place is packed, but I'd say the people at Pure Groove are onto a winner. Will they pay the bands to play? Unlikely. Will they make a killing off booze sold at in-store gigs in addition to exquisite boutique vinyls? Absolutely.

And so, onto Marina + The Diamonds, who didn't exactly blow me away on first listen / glance. That was probably because I'm a big cynic, and I didn't really think the world needed another British female singer songwriter. Well, I changed my mind. Kate Nash's debut album was a colossal dissppointment after much early promise; equally distressing was how her quirks were ironed out into a cake-eating, fit dress personality-less persona. Lily Allen always had the attitude, but not the songwriting ability to match. Adele and Florence and the Machine are blessed with stunning voices, but again haven't proved themselves to be in possession of the power to pen a stonking tune. I'll reserve judgement on Florence until her album drops.

Young Marina, on the other hand, has a Pandora's box overflowing with melodies. She whips them out with a voice that soars in all the right places and quivers gorgeously from time to time. Liam Howe as the magician behind the production desk looks an inspired choice. Her songs are breathlessly energetic, energy matched last week on stage with a sultry performance that laid down the gauntlet to all of 2009's pretenders to the quirky singer-songstress crown. Clearly some practicing in front of the mirror has been going on, time put to good use as all eyes in the room were on her.

Obsessions is the single, like I said I wasn't particularly enamoured with it before.
If you're similarly unsure, just listen to the ah-ah backing vocals that kick in just before the second minute. The next thirty seconds, I crumble completely. Pretty much every melody then comes back in for a beautifully layered finalé and it all makes sense. At this point, I'm enthralled by this girl's mastery of melody and vocal layers. Pink Stallone yoink the backing vocals for their epic disco-fare, their version being more suited to the highway than the bedroom. Mowgli's Road is probably the stronger track, definitely live anyway, but go elsewhere for that or buy the vinyl. Head on over to Transparent for another remix of Obsessions also. Buy from Pure Groove.

Marina + The Diamonds - Obsessions

Marina + The Diamonds - Obsessions (Pink Stallone Crush)

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