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They say some of the best projects have come from heartbreak, like “So Vain” by Carly Simon, Midsommar by Ari Aster, and Mavis Staples’s Only The Lonely as examples. Though the hitting percentage is high for such projects, critically, it’s all subjective to the listener as albums framed this way have more at stake than just musical compositions. We get these raw emotions and creative directions taken to amplify its prevalence, making it so we understand the impact the relationship had on the artists. We heard it plenty through singular angles or communal like Rumours by Fleetwood Mac; however, it’s rarer for it to get done by both parties, where synchronicity is high; it’s all due to an understanding of the conceptual onus for Submarine, The new album by The Mariás. It sounds more influenced by some of the indie pop acts of yesterday, more so the singer-songwriters, and a light detraction from their debut, Cinema, which was more soft-rock-like than Submarine, where the atmospheric and moody textures offer a more sobering portrayal of Josh Conway and Maria Zardoya’s relationship, even when the album has significant lows and a sound aesthetic that can only go so far. 

Opening with a callback to their first album, Cinema, The Mariás uses sonic aesthetics to explore themes relative to the relationship, like faces, places, what ifs, and this desire for growth, a spiritual journey grounded in reality. With a blue, watery aesthetic driving the images, one can see a slight correlation to Blue by Krzysztof Kieślowski’s ”Three Colours, where the protagonist, after a devastating car crash, goes on a journey of self-discovery; however, the car crash here is a relationship, yet we see the band coming out stronger. The breakup between Josh Conway and Maria Zardoya as a couple has been a topic of conversation for the album recently, considering how in tandem they are, but accepting a friendly break, despite lingering emotions, can make the work come out stronger. One example is “Sienna,” where Maria Zardoya wonders about motherhood, especially as she relates to skin color being representative of her person, especially as it juxtaposes the watery atmosphere with something earthier and grounded in reality; another is “Real Life,” where sometimes Zardoya feels warped into doubt via déjà vu. The writing is a clear standout, making you wish Submarine didn’t dwindle at the end.

The weakest part of Submarine is its production. It’s ironic, considering their multilayered textures were what attracted me to their craft, specifically the blend of jazz and soul into more nuanced atmospheric pop compositions. Like Cinema, Submarine is about developing a feeling with its production to parallel its lyrics and amplify the delivery, and with Submarine, the sonic concept focuses on watery; it’s this cooling and spacey tone that makes note of the open space you have to feel within. It hooks you right away, delivering these beautiful rhythmic compositions that don’t need drums to exemplify the direction they take you on. It benefits it that the writing continues to shine, especially as they show growth by elevating stories to reflect within this realm they create. It makes the last few tracks feel more tepid, considering the sonic concept starts to wane, and it hinders some solid writing and vocals. “No One Noticed,” “Sienna,” and “Vivacious Sensitive Robot” are hindered due to their production feeling like it has limits, whereas “Love You Anyway” amplifies the bass to be a significant supporting character in the composition, the former three have more of a modest and tiring throughline.

However, through its lows, the highs come by exponential, like “Echo,” which beautifully encompasses the feeling of loneliness, longing, and understanding of a shift in the relationship; Zardoya encompasses this with delicate vocals over a synth-heavy and uproarious composition. “Paranoia” taps into the anxiety that comes in relationships, framed within the feeling of trust because of how one can easily assume the worst; they do so over this elegant and straightforward rock production emboldens the watery frame. “Ay No Puedo” takes a lot of influence from Mexican folk music, specifically in the multilayered strings weaving something akin to 2014/2015 era Natalia LaFourcade. Fortunately, it improves on the more tempered composition of “Lejos De Ti,” another track that falls from its simple construction, unlike others. Further, some instrumental breaks elevate it and create space from an open body of water as a chamber. It keeps you hooked through much of the album, even when it isn’t the most potent. The consistency is there, even when it wanes, and the disappointment comes from hearing these weaker moments; though that’s par of the course, you get some solace that much of the tracks are exponential highs. 

A part of me wishes I loved Submarine more than I did, but nobody is perfect and I see it as a continuing process that will make the craft even better. It’s tough to quantify its depth because I never peeked my eyes into their relationship, and how they formulate these ideas and senses shine above the rest. I understood their love and heartbreak with these songs, and in doing so, we got these whimsical moments that explore places as a foundation for these emotional cornerstones, elevating past something more typical, as we’ve heard before. They are focused and offer enough insight to make the album feel rewarding, even when the content is more personal than interpersonal. 

Rating: 7 out of 10.