Charlotte Martin- On Your Shore (RCA)
review by Joe del Tufo

Track Listing

1. On Your Shore
2. Limits Of Our Love
3. Your Armor
4. Every Time It Rains
5. Steel
6. Sweet Chariot
7. Madman
8. Up All Night
9. Haunted
10. Parade On
11. Something Like A Hero
12. Beautiful Life
13. Wild Horses

Piano-based songwriter Charlotte Martin will have the unfortunate distinction of being compared to Tori Amos in every review she receives, positive or negative. Do a Google search, you'll see. After all, how can a female pianist not sound something like Tori, as engrained and influential as she's been to the genre. Indeed Martin's debut EP did recall Tori, often a bit too closely, and left this reviewer wondering how she would be able to differentiate herself on her full-length. A year and much touring later and Martin finally has delivered that full-length, and it is a stunner.

Back to that Tori issue first, since I feel it will end up being Martin's Achilles heel, at least in the press. When Tori's debut Little Earthquakes was released, many reviewers initially wrote her off as a Kate Bush clone. This was true, to a degree, but really where would we be musically without Kate? Still ten years from Lillith, I'd bet. But it was Tori's live shows, numbingly intense, that were able to connect with a younger crowd of predominantly female listeners in a way that no artist has before or since. The word spread, and no one mentions Kate so much anymore. Tori was honest and unflagging, something that is rare enough to be shocking in today's fashion and genre-driven scene, and it helped distinguish her as an artist. Taken in this light, On Your Shore follows a very similar path as Little Earthquakes, at once a very strong nod to Kate Bush (listen closely to Limits Of Our Love and Every Time It Rains, which could literally be updated outtakes from Hounds Of Love), and the very direct emotional honesty that will appeal to a wide range of listeners looking for a little more substance in their music.

But Charlotte also has something that Kate and Tori never had. She's got that look. You know, the kind that could fit right in on O.C. And how she manages that look (or how much she allows others to manage it) could dictate her artistic survival. You know, beautiful enough to get noticed, but too beautiful to be taken seriously. And On Your Shore demands and deserves to be taken seriously.

Anyway, the songs. The opening lines from the eponymous opener "I dig my heels into the dirt, cause this one's gonna hurt" set the tone for the rest of the disc. It is intense, catchy, unwavering and brutally honest. We can immediately hear an improved production level from her In Parentheses EP, but not so much that it detracts from the essence of the music. Strings rising above the thundering piano give a sea-like quality to On Your Shore, and a disorienting sense that is fitting for the material. Martin has a strong, distinctive voice that approaches the highs of Kate Bush while occasionally also soaring to operatic levels. On Your Shore is followed by the high wow-factor of Limits Of Our Love. Very different than anything on the EP, Limits is energetic, passionate and fierce. Lyrically, it is an ode to an accelerating romance; musically it is a complex, hip-shaking, time-shifting tour de force. It is everything that is missing from Top 40 music, while also having all of the makings of a Top 40 song. And it's the track that sticks with you, when you remove the headphones.

The highlight from the In Parentheses EP, You Armor, follows. It is well-positioned on the disc, as a low key piano-driven ballad. The recording seems to add additional orchestration from the EP version, but otherwise seems very faithful to the original. This is the track that brings Tori to mind the most- raw and emotionally direct: "Is your armor thin again, do I want to wear it down. Am I ready to come in, do you want to be found?" Another highlight follows immediately, the Peter Gabriel-esque Every Time It Rains. With thundering drums riding the mix above Martin's tinkling piano, the lavishly layered track is also the album's most euphoric. On its surface it's a very positive song about how her spirit gains strength in the rain and, to a lesser degree, faith ("I never needed light to see you"), but one can also see it as a mantra to surviving and appreciating the opportunity to overcome difficult times. It is a deep, psychological primal scream masquerading as a catchy pop song. The trip-hoppy Steel follows, recalling early Emm Gryner and then the low-key Sweet Chariot, which is perhaps the strongest showcase of Martin's impressive vocal range.

Martin picks up the pace with the frantic rhythms of Madman. One of the more idiosyncratic mixes on the disc, the track builds upon simple piano to a crescendo of thundering drums, fiery vocals and spiraling piano and then back down to earth again. Another emotional exorcism, Up All Night follows. With lines like "Every song that I sing, will be written by your face" and "It's 3 AM and I have been, in my head for quite some time" we know Martin is performing without a net.

Another very strong highlight on the disc is Beautiful Life. To have a track this powerful hiding 12 tracks deep on an album only serves to accentuate how remarkable a collection of songs this is. A gorgeous cello and piano driven ballad, Beautiful Life is perhaps Charlotte at her most lyrically inventive "Swim to the end of the river, until there's no shiver left in your spine." A cover of the Stones' Wild Horses closes out the disc, as sparse and dazzling a version as you're likely to hear. I would personally have preferred to see this as an unlisted bonus track or b-side, as the originals are so strong here as to not warrant the distraction of a cover. But it is a memorable cover, nonetheless.

It is my argument that On Your Shore is, believe it or not, the first important release of 2004. Just another chick pouring out her soul across 88 keys, you say? How bout a female Jeff Buckley with a similarly astounding debut, and the added possibility to get radio play (not to mentioned MTV) to boot?   Regardless of how On Your Shore is received, it will remain a watermark for well-crafted pop music with substance. It is also clear from the progression from her EP that Charlotte is just beginning to discover her voice and distance herself from the influences that infuse her work. Here's to hoping she continues to let it all fly like the thirteen tracks on On Your Shore.



marillion- happiness is the road
tilt- million dollar wound
mickey simmonds- the seven colours of emptiness
ukz- radiation
pain of salvation - scarsick
icon- icon II, icon live
the pineapple thief- tightly unwound
planet p project- levittown (go out dancing part II)
nosound- lightdark
dengue fever- venus on earth
art of all- morgan
marillion- somewhere else
abigails ghost- selling insincerity
blackfield- blackfield II
damien rice- 9
the who- endless wire
the beach boys- good vibrations
the pineapple thief- little man
the killers- sam's town
tom petty- highway companion
hem- funnel cloud
emm gryner- the summer of high hopes
jeremy enigk- world waits
razorlight- razorlight
gps- window to the soul
iron maiden- a matter of life and death
thom yorke- the eraser
richard butler- richard butler
the flaming lips- at war with the mystics
ray davies- other people's live
david gilmour- on an island
nosound- sol29
jackson browne- running on empty 5.1
neal morse- ?
king crimson- 21st century guide to king crimson
shriekback- cormorant
depeche mode- playing the angel
pallas- the dreams of men
my morning jacket- z
riverside- second life syndrome
roger waters- ca ira
various artists- backs against the wall
riverside- out of myself
sigur ros- takk
killers- hot fuss
queen + paul rodgers- return of the champions
journey- generations
yes- the word is live
emmylou harris- heartaches & highways
van der graaf generator- remaster series
rob dickinson- fresh wine for the horses
annie- anniemal
dredg- catch without arms
foo fighters- in your honor
dream theater- octavarium
belle and sebastian- push barman to open old wounds
the go-betweens- oceans apart
porcupine tree- up the downstair (remaster 2005)
coldplay- x & y
nine inch nails- with teeth
aimee mann- the forgotten arm
van der graaf generator- present
christopher o'riley- hold me to this
glen phillips- winter pays for summer
new order- waiting for the siren's call
ben folds- songs for silverman
john doe- forever hasn't happened yet
trashcan sinatras- fez
adrian belew- side one
kaki king - legs to make us longer
longview- mercury
stereophonics- language. sex. violence. other?
for against- echelons
over the rhine- drunkard's prayer
kathleen edwards- back to me
kasabian- kasabian
porcupine tree- deadwing
the wedding present- take fountain
super furry animals - songbook
arena- pepper's ghost
snow patrol- final straw
rpwl- world through my eyes
tori amos- the beekeeper
kino- picture
monarch- the grandeur that was rome
spocks beard- octane
the wonder stuff- escape from rubbish island
richard barbieri- things buried
the pineapple thief- 12 stories down
the pineapple thief- 8 days later
the innoncence mission- now the day is over
zero 7- when it falls
pain of salvation- be
california guitar trio- white water
jelly jam- 2
tim bowness- my hotel year
van halen- the best of both worlds
glen burtnik- welcome to hollywood
charlie mars- charlie mars
porcupine tree- voyage 34 (2004 remaster)
saint etienne- travel edition
lanterna- highways review
hellboys- cha cha with the hellboys review
persona non grata- the fine art of living review
tegan and sara- so jealous review
guadalcanal diary- 2x4 reissue review
voices in the wire- signals in transmission review
roger waters- to kill a child/ leaving beirut review
luna- rendezvous review
jim white- drill a hole in that substrate and tell me what you see review
the drive-by truckers- the dirty south review
the blue nile - high review
lovedrug- pretend you're alive review
twilight singers- she loves you review
keane- hope and fears review
winds- the imaginary direction of time review
kristeen young- x review
asia- silent nation review
macha- forget tomorrow review
crystal method- legion of boom dvd-audio review
kevin moore- ghost book review
marillion- don't hurt yourself singles review
attrition- dante's kitchen review
rush- feedback review
tortoise- it's all around you review
division of laura lee- does not compute review
peccatum- lost in reverie review
iq- dark matter review
bass communion- ghosts on magnetic tape review
the push stars- paint the town review
virgin black- elegant... and dying review
marillion- marbles review
the streets- a grand don't come for free review
the veils- the runaway found review
all about eve- let me go home review
john young band- live review
mary lou lord- baby blue review
the divine comedy- absent friends review
pink floyd- the final cut (2004 remaster) review
prot-kaw- before became after review
jeffrey gaines live review
mocean worker- enter the mowo review
starsailor- silence is easy review
pineapple thief- variations review
lloyd cole- music in a foreign language review
david sylvian- blemish review
spock's beard- feel euphoria eview
guy manning- press pack sampler review
magellan- impossible figures review
the tangent- the music that died alone review
john gorka- live from grace church photos and review
hothouse flowers- into your heart review
charlotte martin- on your shore review
rasputina- frustration plantation review
stellastarr*- stellastarr* review
vast- nude review
sparks- lil' beethoven review
the damnwells- bastards of the beat review
dave gahan- paper monsters review
king crimson- power to believe review
fish- field of crows review
porcupine tree- in absentia dvd-audio review
new model army- great expectations review
antimatter- unreleased 1998 - 2003 review
catie curtis: dreaming in romance languages review
the gathering- sleepy buildings review
twilight singers play blackberry belle review
vienna teng- warm strangers review
opeth- lamentations dvd review
courtney love- america's sweetheart review
blackfield review
anathema- a natural disaster review
nearfest 2003 coverage
neal morse solo photos- metuchen, nj
porcupine tree broadcast
alpha- stargazing review
david sylvian at the tla
emm gryner at the point
barry andrews at the tin angel
tweaker:2 am wakeup call review
cure- join the dots review
fish live from the tla with john wesley
spearhead- everyone deserves music review
miles hunt (wonderstuff) live

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