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Charlotte Martin – “Dancing on Needles” Review

Some artists just seem to never make a poor album and one of those is Charlotte Martin. From leaping from piano based melodies to synth rock anthems from her previous albums, Martin’s latest “Dancing on Needles” carefully merges the organic with the synthetic and makes one hell of a rocking album seeping emotion from start to finish.

Opening with “Any Minute Now” Charlotte’s piano and vocal delivery are harsh and bold in this ever twisting tense and taut track. The ever present rumblings of low pianos are joined by guitars and pounding drums as Charlotte’s vocal layering pushes to the fore in a great opener. Single “Volcano” swaps sides from organic rock to heavily processed drum samples and etheral electric pianos yet the underlining current is one of pain, grit and detirmination. Even through its spacious angelic chorus (with a fantastic riff may I add) nothing ever feels settled and its this pinprick edge that carries the album and elevates it further.

“Truth Cerium” returns to the band sound with a strong pounding track showcasing Martin’s penchant for sticking an slightly detuned chord in her riffs that give a certain rush to the brain. It’s great to see this side of Martin’s music because it shows she’s a master of all different genres of music and I can see this being a great live track. Title track “Dancing on Needles” has a fantastic funky bassline while the backbeat thumps away like a ticking clock while all kinds of atmospherics swirl around – this is the album footstomper arm waver anthem as it continues to evolve and build. This leads effeortlessly into “Animal” which is an absolutely stunning track. Full of drama, intrigue and an epic chorus – the verses chart their course the crawl inside your veins and then coupled with Charlotte’s quivering vocals, the choruses just steal your pulse away.

The album hits a quieter period which starts off with the devastingly beautiful “Life Vest” which is the first piano/vocal led track. Charlotte’s high singing register against the piano easily brings you to tears of emotion in what is a heart wrenching performance. You can hear every nuance and second of pain in her every word. “Tremble” is not so much quiet all the way through but its as equally emotive as instrument upon instrument is slowly added into the mix until we reach the final hurrah where the electric guitars, pianos and vocals all whail together with a marching drum beat pulsing through your body and its almost like hitting a state of euphoria. The songs construction is fantastic and is a perfect juxtaposition to the solo version available on youtube. “Starlight” has a beautiful synth piano sound much like someone has crossbred a steel pan and an electric piano. This electro-rock ballad is beautiful for its constantly flowing with different raising chords that feel slightly eastern but quite gritty too. It’s quite a unique sound and stands out because of it.

“Ready for a Flight” is a dark track with a full on growling chorus which comes across like a gigantic stand off in a bull arena with stimping drums and grizzly bass backing her up as the dischordant piano rumbles behind them all. The most abstract song on the album is the most hair raising. “Complications” is another lighter waver rock ballad and its here where the electronic and acoustic collide 50/50 and combined with excellent songwriting the merger of most of Martin’s backcatalogue is sewn together seemlessly. If this song doesn’t becomes a romance movie ballad then a crime has been made against humanity.

“Language of God” is the big rocking finale on the album with pounding toms and all kinds of fun synths bursting out in the middle. Throughout the album the vocal layers are core but here they also form part of the background hum of music – almost like a background chant. The middle eight is like an electro-Eden. The album closes with “Weird Goodbye” which is an emotional piano/vocal track that doesn’t just tug on the heart strings, it rips them out and jumps up and down on them and is classic early Char Mar.

“Dancing on Needles” is mindblowingly fantastic. From the opening note to the closing whimper you can feel every emotion, every word and every teardrop of pain and there’s nothing quite like it. Easily the first must have album of 2011 and early contender for album of the year. It’ll leave you breathless.

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