The Marías paint an understated portrait of love lost on submarine

The album cover for "Submarine" by The Marías. (Nice Life Recording Company/Atlantic Records via AP)

Dylan Masvidal | Contributing Writer

The things we do for love. 

Or as sung on “Submarine,” the things love does to us. 

Three years after their debut album  “CINEMA,” quite a lot has changed for The Marías, both in stature and internal relationships. Jumping off the diving board that was their chart-topping collaboration with Bad Bunny, the sky was the limit for this ever so mysterious LA band. 

With success comes sacrifice, however, as the breakup between lead vocalist Maria Zardoya and drummer Josh Conway had Zardoya questioning if the group would even stay together. 

But if you think I’m airing out dirty laundry for the sake of it, their tumultuous partnership is the backbone of “Submarine,” a sophomore LP that they’ve described as a transformative expression of “heartbreak and loneliness.” 

From a sound standpoint, that assessment could not be more on the money. I wish I could say the same on the concept front. 

There is a delectable musical palette on display here that builds upon the ethereal and aquatic atmosphere represented by the album cover. 

Right from the jump with the intro track “Ride,” the listener is rocked with a robotic groove through a rippling bass line.

The following “Hamptons” dishes out infectious dance rhythms that use house music influences. 

There’s even an attempt at an espionage style lounge ballad on “If Only,” equipped with a steamy, sultry trumpet solo that harkens back to Anna Nicole Smith’s character theme from “Naked Gun 33 ⅓: The Final Insult.” Intentional? I’m certain of it. 

These songs give “Submarine” a rich texture, but none of them are the crowning achievement that is the otherworldly “Blur”: An amalgamation of P-Funk and trip hop components that knocked my socks off. 

The second half of the track where the funky bass and boom bap drums reach a boiling point gave me an almost indescribable feeling. It was as if my soul was lifted. 

Unfortunately, my emphasis on the eclectic instrumentation is to hide my disappointment in the execution of the album’s themes. 

Don’t get me wrong: I can appreciate the straightforwardness of the songwriting. The more genuine you are and the less cryptic you come off to the audience can create a stronger connection to the emotions you’re trying to convey. 

The key word there is “can.” 

The aforementioned trip hop inspiration is interesting to me, being that Portishead’s Beth Gibbons and The Marías’ Zardoya revel in the use of soft melodies yet the latter never seems interested in showcasing a calling card of sorts, instead choosing to stay glued to her whispery delivery without breaking free for distinction. 

Granted, that might be an unfair comparison.  Zardoya’s vocal range and approach is better compared to Billie Eilish or Anna Wise than the genre titans she’s inspired by. 

My point still stands that jaded elegance doesn’t effectively channel the feelings of hopelessness she must have felt during the inevitable demise of her romance. Dejection is a tool that must be used sparingly to address matters of the heart. 

Overdo it and you render yourself seductively disinterested rather than emotionally haunting. 

What stings the most is the fact that there are a select few songs on “Submarine” where Zardoya’s heartache reveals itself, such as on the dreamy Spanish tune “Lejos De Ti” or the R&B flavored “Love You Anyway.” 

Switching to the language of love or changing up a cadence goes a long way for the vocals on the album. As it stands, the titular band member blends in with the production instead of meeting it in the middle. 

The Marías continue to impress while also falling just short of putting together a fully realized vision. 

If they stray away from the retail store wallpaper plaguing pop music and surrender themselves to experimentation, I have no reason to believe their next album will be anything short of excellent. 

Until then, their “Submarine” needs finer steel.

Rating: 6/10 

★★★★★★☆☆☆☆  

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