Etta Marcus — Review of The EP “Heart Shaped Bruise”: A Deep and dark Journey into the Land of Fiction


Before Etta Marcus could figure out who she was as an artist, she just needed a little push. This happened unexpectedly at the beginning of the pandemic, when the singer found out that she had been kicked out of jazz school — ironically, because she paid too much attention to her own voice, and not to the technical features of the genre. But it turned out to be a turning point for a 21-year-old girl who started making her own music. By January 2022, Marcus had pieced everything together and written her thoughtful debut EP, “View From the Bridge”, released independently to give time for a little artistic introspection.

This project was the first glimpse of the voice of an artist trying to uncover a transitional period, one whose alluring lyrics boast of Lana Del Rey’s sharp storytelling skills and Phoebe Bridgers’ sullen self-awareness. But such a distinctive and emotional songwriting style invariably carried the risk of being called a “sad girl,” a restrictive label that Marcus sought to subvert on her second EP, “Heart Shaped Bruise.” “If someone calls me something, I immediately want to do the opposite,” the Londoner recently told NME.

So it’s no surprise that “Heart Shaped Bruise” — Markus’ first release since signing with Polydor Records — finds the singer in a sharper form, still struggling with the overhaul of the last three years, reflecting on the ugly demise of a relationship. “I’m the bitch who broke your nose/I bet you slept on a dark red pillow,” she declares with sarcastic insistence in Nosebleed, deftly intertwining sinister undertones with boiling synthesizers.

The vengeful single “Crown” accelerates the tempo, opening with a brisk hi-hat and an elegant guitar part, after which Marcus threatens to “burn down your palace” and “tear you to pieces.” Shades of creepy, dark poetic theatricality also seep into the final track “Parting Song”, revealing the creepy lyrical twist that Marcus is actually waving from the other side (“We are tombstones on the lawn”).

Meanwhile, in “Smile For the Camera”, Marcus is still suffering from his academic failures, admitting that she “can’t even smile into the camera” at her brother’s graduation, her voice covered by the elastic guitar riff of the early noughties. But it is the title track that makes the singer the most lyrically vulnerable. “There’s a bruise in the shape of a heart,” she sings softly and lingeringly, softened by soft strings and sobering violins. “At night / I stretch out my hand and feel it with my finger.”

Marcus’ second EP is like a frozen window into the aching heart of an artist who writes her imperfect story in real time. By studying the essence of her deepest feelings, she seeks to better understand herself.


  • Release date: January 13
  • Record label: Polydor


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