Although not particularly melancholic in tone, there is something wistful about Martha Bean’s debut album ‘When Shadows Return To the Sea’, released on April 6th. Opening track ‘When The Fear Comes’ introduces the listener to her hauntingly pitched vocals over a slowly building piano part that peaks in anguished yowls – reminiscent of the early work of Coldplay when they were just a piano led indie-pop outfit..
Having said that, songs like Martha’s latest single ‘Who Changed the Clocks?’ manage to conjure the same level of bombasticity of their later career, with the swelling use of a 16-piece orchestra accentuating each crescendo. The breathy, jazz tones provided over the top swirl together to form a mix of Norah Jones channelling the late, great Lou Reed.
A classically trained, multi-instrumentalist, Martha Bean switches seamlessly from using the piano with prominence to guitar led tunes that have more than just a hint of Laura Marling about them; but perhaps with a shade more optimism with their folksy intent drawing out the similarities.
Despite so many comparisons being cast about, the defining feature of the music that sets it apart from its influences is they way it bleeds from one theme into another whilst still taking on a softly singular form throughout the album.
Take, for example, the third and fourth singles in the collection. ‘Song of the Sea’ is a lilting and gentle piece whose dreamlike aesthetic and comforting tones act almost as a lullaby for adults. This is then followed by ‘The Conversation’ which begins with a dangerously catchy opening that verges on the periphery of pop before returning to the safety of a more folksy standpoint, but neither this nor the preceding offering seem out of place on the album, or indeed next to each other.
‘Spit it Out’ injects the first edge of steeliness into the record, with a story of lament, backed by a gloriously sinister bass line that hints at a possible darkness beneath the meek surface.
The final few tracks seem to continue along this road, with ‘To Make The Whole World Happy’ decrying the impossible nature of such a task, and ‘Bad Blood’ almost rejoicing in the anger held for someone else.
As it draws to a close, ‘I Still Remember’ seems to offer up the final return to earlier, upbeat tones but instead strikes a middle ground with the pain of loss tempered by cautious optimism and the joy of memory.
All in all, the cathartic storytelling of ‘When Shadows Return To The Sea’ coupled with the light and tender compositions make it a very sellable album that deserves success.
Vincent JS Wood