Marnie: Strange Words and Weird Wars (3 stars)

Marnie: Strange Words and Weird Wars

Sleek synth pop from the Ladytron vocalist

Helen Marnie is best known for her place in the icy cool lineup of Liverpool's Ladytron. Those enigmatic boy-girl synthbots were last spotted in 2011, but have recently intimated their not-a-moment-too-soon return to action, in order to wrestle synth pop from the feeble grip of the likes of Years & Years.

In the interim, Marnie returned to her native Glasgow, from where she set to work on her solo debut Crystal World. The elegantly produced follow-up Strange Words and Weird Wars has been a long time coming but packs a pop purity that would ring true and confident in any age. Despite the intriguing title, this is pop music through and through. There's an inevitable kinship with other solo synth divas such as Grimes and Ladyhawke, but Marnie is sleeker still. Such is her ear for a catchy hook that she could even give Lady Gaga a run for her money with the likes of 'Invisible Girl'.

Among various retro flirtations, 'G.I.R.L.S.' is a call to female revolution in an attractive New Romantic package, while Marnie harks back to the heyday of Belinda Carlisle with the slick 80s pop of 'Electric Youth', the kind of track you would expect to hear over the closing credits of a John Hughes film. Likewise, the dreamy echo-laden robo-pop of 'Summer Boys' and 'Heartbreak Kid' mine the same wistful teen territory as Lana Del Rey without ladling on the vintage cultural references.

The album is not all disposable bubblegum; there are darker shadows to get lost in, from the classy retro-futurist electroscape of 'Lost Maps' to the atmospheric torch song 'A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night'. Named after the Iranian vampire movie, the latter tune layers up Marnie's vocals to rhapsodic effect and provides a welcome variety in texture while still sitting comfortably in this cohesive collection.

Out Fri 2 Jun (Disco Pinata).


Singer-songwriter and sometime Ladytron frontwoman with uptempo dream-pop.