Breaking Out of These 4 Walls | Charlotte Martin’s Sophomore Release Pushes Her into Electronic Territories that Sizzle Brilliantly

Charlotte Martin’s 2nd Album, Stromata, released September 2006

I found Charlotte through a suggestion in my music history on iTunes around 2011. By this time, Charlotte had just release her 5th album Dancing on Needles. The suggestion came from her first album On You Shore; a song called “Your Armor”. I was listening to plenty of Tori Amos at this time, a past time that I still do, and a new interesting female alternative voice was right up my alley. I quite enjoyed the songs off her first album and was enamored by the cover of her second record, Stromata. A stark image of just her face and a very simplistic background all tinged purple. I had to know what was inside.

One of the covers of the two single releases of “Stromata” in July 2006

Stromata was a shift in sound for Charlotte at the time, from a more singer/songwriter pop-ternative tone that was more en vogue for 2004 to a much heavier electronic and alternative tone. This was heavily hinted at from her prior E.P., Veins, that released a year prior. The titular track opens with a dark electronic hum with Charlotte’s piano and various electronic beats building up the track. I was hooked from the get go. The chorus explodes, “I I You we’re not thinking my stromata…”. It’s easily a favorite from the album. Charlotte sings about a relationship that is clearly hot and cold and maybe for the worse in pursuing. “Cut the Cord” opens with numerous percussive elements. The mood with the synths gives and uneasy tone to the track. Again, the track builds off the prior’s theme of a bad relationship. Here, the lyrics tell a story of a toxic relationship that you can’t seem to break away from, “… And then we’re too weak too strong to cut the cord”. “Drip” has a spacey feel with its chime of electric piano and atmospheric beats. Charlotte here pours out about her prior struggles with an eating disorder. The chorus shows her mindset of wanting maintain control of her body, “You can’t stop letting me, can’t stop letting me slide…”. You can really feel internal suffering of wanting to let this go, but also maintain control over her body. The end of this track blends extremely well into “Little Universe”. It continues the hum of synth in the background which layers up with volcanic beats and reverberating piano. This tone works well with the lyrical play being lost in a relationship that you want to work, but is on the outs. There’s sense of urgency behind her voice, “Please don’t choose over these half truths and our little universe…”. I love the overall atmosphere of the track. It’s very dark and moody with its heavy handed electronic nature. “Civilized” explodes from the start with guitar and synth and drums. I love the piano in this track. The verses drive you forward with its beat. Charlotte is at one of her lyrical best here. There’s venom coming from her about an argument between lovers which has reached it’s climax with lines like: “I’m rolling up beginnings, and you’ve been smoking up the ends to you explode, come on now explode…” and “I’m not saying you deserve to die, just saying you deserve yourself…”. It’s clear there’s no love left here. “A Hopeless Attempt” opens with this wilted sounding electronic piano. There’s a broken aire to the track. Charlotte coos about a man that she wants dearly, but knows is just forbidden fruit. The chorus adds to slight lightness to the track with the addition of synth flutes. “Four Walls” was released on the Veins E.P.. It has a heavy electronic sound, with its electronic beats, guitar, and synths. The theme here again is a relationship gone sour. “… Grow accustom to the darkness and see what you're supposed to see, head up straight I know what I’m doing… I don’t”. There’s push and pull between the two lovers in this song that you can tell is toxic. The main difference between this track and the E.P. version is the omission of part of the bridge on the E.P. version. I do enjoy that version, but do feel the omission of this dramatic piano portion is for the better. “Inch” continues this spacey atmospheric tone with its echoing piano chords. Here, Charlotte looks back on this past relationship, mourning its loss and remembering the passion behind it. The addition of the bass in the chorus really opens the track up. “Keep Me In Your Pocket” is a little tongue and cheek track on self gratification. It’s sound echos back to some of Charlotte’s earlier works from her Test Drive E.P. “Pills” is track that dives into the various uses and misuses of … pills, up to overdose. “Pills that make the boys a little frisky, pills that make the girls fight PMS, pills that make your conversation risky, pills that help you straighten out the mess…”. It’s an interesting track, with an odd addition of this bubble water sound towards the end. To me, this track sounds like a B-side. I could take it or leave it on the album. “Just Before Dawn” sung in either German/Italian, I can not tell, and is a operatic track with just piano and cello. It has this atmospheric airy sound in the background as well. It is quite short, a little under 2 minutes. It definitely highlights Charlotte’s vocal skills and range, but honestly can be skipped. “The Dance” is a blend of percussive beats, a blinky sounding piano, and voice. Charlotte tries her best to qwell her lust for the man she wants in this song. She tells herself that she must shake it off and be friends, but the chorus swells with her internal struggle over wanting him. “Why (why) can’t (can’t) you take me in your arms now…” It’s a very gripping track. The final track on the album is “Redeemed”. Charlotte sings of growth, of learning from the past, and redemption from your prior self. I love how this track epps and flows between the verses and choruses. The addition backing vocals really add to this song.

I love this record. I think it’s a criminally underrated and under-appreciated album. Charlotte does a fantastic job of shaping the sonic world. Although there are a very skippable tracks on this record, I highly recommend giving it a full listen, I promise you won’t be disappointed. My highlights off this album:

  • “Stromata”
  • “Drip”
  • “Civilized”
  • “Four Walls”
  • “The Dance”
  • “Redeemed”

Overall Rating: 7.5 of 10 cellular frameworks.

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Z-sides: Music Reviews

Z-sides: Music Reviews

Welcome to my personal blog. This is a place where I discuss any of my musical finds or faves. Drop in and have a listen.