28 Feb 2021

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Marshmellow - Album Review: Secrets of the Universe

04 Jun 2020 // A review by Callum Wagstaff
From a world of bottomless resilience and optimism comes Marshmellow's Secrets of the Universe. A Eurovision wet dream forged in environmental hope and poverty-stricken despair with a solid gold, true-love center.  Secrets of the Universe looks to nature for inspiration and uses it to create allegories for the themes of fateful love, lost love, rediscovered love, and plural, magnanimous love for all human kind.

Marshmellow is the clever nom de plume of Marshal Smith.
MD of The Sound Room and chairperson of the Screen
Composers Guild of New Zealand, Smith knows his stuff and has a large handful of accolades supporting his songwriting, composing and producing abilities. You might have already heard 2019's The Feels, which shares Secrets of the Universe's infectious pop sensibilities. Where the former leans into production to deliver said Feels, Secrets of the Universe draws from big band instruments and an area of modern pop you may equate with artists like Robbie Williams or Mika.

Marshmellow uses animals and natural phenomena to give a tangible visual component to more abstract concepts. Three Birds sets a scene that might feel familiar to anyone that's ever looked out of their kitchen window while doing the dishes, but it's a gentle affirmation about finding a path through the loss of a special person.

In Faded Blue T-Shirt he coos the lyric "love is like a river that we're fools to follow" and touches on pre-emptive grief and inequity in songs like Here Comes the Flood and Dogs of Brazil. The strong sense of imagery makes the deeper themes approachable, familiar and identifiable on an experiential level.

Marshmellow has a unique knack for finding a hook in anything from platitudes to metaphysics. Sassy atheistic sentiments become instant earworms in Secret You Secret Me as "thank the non-existent God, or anything you like" gets paired with funky guitars and infectious sax support.

Standout track Dogs of Brazil gets contagious chorus support in the margins of lines like "We could be swimming in the Atlantic/ but the dogs of Brazil run through the night". Frequency of Love wins the prize for most persistent hook, enriching morning showers and haunting sleepless nights.

One of the most admirable qualities of Secrets of the Universe is in the arc of unbridled positivity in the first half of the album moving into the 'darkest hour' of the second half.

Songs like Out There and Death Could Take Years test Marshmellow's optimism and it proves genuinely resilient rather than blissfully ignorant. By the time Here Comes the Flood (possibly the most sombre song) carries out the end of the album, there's a feeling that we've been equipped to deal with its existential grief by the journey we've been on through the preceding tracks.

After a week of listening to it, I have a whole slew of sing-along moments with Secrets of the Universe. It's a bundle of fun to play when you know how to join in with the lyrics. It's also an album that has an emotional arc, so worth hearing in order of track listing several times before you start picking out your favourites.

As a fan of finding the most gut-wrenchingly
pessimistic music I can, it's really refreshing to hear a great album of optimistic music that doesn't rely on being light to achieve it. I enjoyed the hell out of feeling good-sad with Secrets of the Universe.
Rating: ( 5 / 5 )

About Marshmellow

Marshmellow is the alter-ego of singer/songwriter/writer Marshall Smith based in Auckland, New Zealand.

A well established New Zealand based songwriter, composer and producer, Marshall has written music for major international movies, documentaries and commercials for many years such as: Morgan Freeman, ABC, ESPN, BBC, BSkyB, Discovery, TVNZ, TV3, SBS, MTV, Fox... He has more than 1000 tracks published all around the world. He has been an APRA Silver Scroll Finalist and the recipient of many other awards for his music over the years.

Whilst living in the UK for 6 years he played live in venues all over England and has also toured in China and played extensively in NZ with his band The New Freedom.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Marshmellow


Secrets of the Universe
Year: 2020
Type: Album
The Feels
Year: 2019
Type: Album
Love Is Love
Year: 2016
Type: Album

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