Charlotte Martin – On Your Shore Review

Charlotte Martin
“On Your Shore”
RCA Records

Since the release of her EP “In Parentheses” last summer, Charlotte Martin has managed to build a nice little buzz around herself, winning rave reviews for her live shows in The Boston Globe and New York Times. Still, it took a little over a year for her RCA debut, “On Your Shore,” to finally hit the street.

Drawing comparisons to piano songstresses like Fiona Apple (only softer sounding), Tori Amos (only more accessible) and Kate Bush, Martin would�ve been a perfect fit to the long-defunct Lilith Fair. And, like that festival�s founder, Sarah McLachlan, Martin seems content and comfortable to anchor her songs in a piano-driven pop concoction of moody lyrics and theatrical settings. Her songs can swing from brooding, piano ballads to sweepingly orchestrated masterpieces.

Martin’s work covers a wide spectrum: there’s the opening piano ballad (“On Your Shore”), the pop-infused faster-paced tracks (“Limits of Our Love” and “Madman”) and even a cover song thrown in for good measure (the bonus track “Wild Horses”).

On two songs in particular however, Martin really shines.

Featuring only the musician singing and playing piano with a subtle backing of bass guitar, “Sweet Chariot” shows off Martin’s gentle vocal range, beautiful piano composition and interesting lyrical ability (especially the opening line of “Ode to joy my lover boy’s speaking in tongues/and the sky’s bleeding grey.”). Martin dances up and down the piano scale beautifully, delivering each line with as much emotion as the music she plays (most notably as she sings “Am I really here?” during the crescendo of the song’s bridge).

On “Your Armor,” Martin’s vocal and piano styling is personified by a solid string accompaniment. The song itself is a simple ballad, combining thematic elements of longing and love. Again, Martin shows off a mastery with language: “I’ve never known a moment to be frozen. You’re making deals with minutes that will slip away, just slip away.” Yet for all its simplicity, the song really flourishes with the accompanying orchestration, and in the end becomes that much more beautiful.

While at times Martin’s more pop-oriented fair can become a little overblown and some of the songs almost come across as over-produced, the good far outweighs the bad here. As the new wave of piano singer-songwriters – featuring the likes of Keri Noble and Rachel Yamagata – takes shape, Martin is sure to be at the forefront of the movement.