Charlotte Martin’s latest album “Water Breaks Stone” blasted into life last week and I had to hold back reviewing it for a few days for one specific reason: I didn’t want to be a massive fan boy and scream about how awesome it is after just a couple of listens. However now its settled in, I can confirm – it is 100% awesome.
Opening with the complex “Spine” Charlotte begins with a brooding piano led piece that grows into a full band effort as various vocal lines, piano riffs and percussive beats merge into each other. It’s like the whole album’s building blocks are built before you and it gives you an entire flavour of what’s to come but squeezes it into a dark five minutes. Dark is certainly the tone of the album, as is endurance and being broken down. “Water Breaks Stone” showcases nifty piano riffs and Charlotte’s epic vocal scale. There are lots of strong high-end flexing and along with the synth work it is a lovely example of how a lot of Martin’s previous works have now combined into a seamless sound. “Not A Sure Thing” is the closest to a radio single as it brings a humorous and clumsy cabaret edge with funky piano and de tuned synth plinks and plonks. I’m a big fan of the unusual chord structure and a huge fan of how each song bleeds gently into the next. Often albums feel like collections of songs but here there is a proper transition between each track. It’s subtle but it’s the cherry on top.
“Battle Cry” takes things into the epic percussive zone. There’s a lot of grande moments throughout the album but this feels like a six-minute riot from the top of a mountain. Everything from the harsh piano discord and the low vs high vocal melodies to the collage of synths in the chorus has a reverb to it that makes each note ache in emotion and drama. “Science and Love” is another epic track but slowly builds itself up from a funky virus synth line and towards the end a beautiful faux string accompaniment joins the track from half way. The strings and synths turn the track into a stadium piano rock anthem. You’ll want to shout the final lines of the song and air drum to the closing section – it’s beautiful and powerful. Ending the epic middle trilogy is “Where the Soul Never Dies” where the drums roll like thunder and there’s a lot of metallic and industrial sounding percussive synths bashing mini glitched melodies. It also switches pace and feel as things turn to a subtle electronica beat. What is impressive is despite all the dramatic sounds the song, and the album feels warm and fuzzy.
“Gravity” sees the album take its first breath with a gorgeous celestial horizon of keyboards and pianos that merge with Charlotte’s voice that is twinned beautifully with itself. There’s some beautiful call and response melodies as the track marches to its climax. “12 Years” is the closest to an abstract track on the album. It’s a slow builder of sine waves and vocals. It feels quite spiritual as the track feels like it’s playing in slow motion. “When the Sun Finds Me” is simply beautiful. It brings the piano and voice to the fore and everything fades away for a few minutes. Charlotte transforms herself into a chorus of gospel proportions and the sheer power of this is enough to melt the coldest of hearts. Closing the album is the piano, string and vocal track “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made” which is the perfect follow-up to the previous track. Martin’s use of echo and pause in her tracks squeeze every drop of raw emotion out of them and yet the songs never feel overwrought or too dramatic. They are perfectly pitched and frankly the top of the class.
“Water Breaks Stone” is perfectly crafted, amazingly pitched and beautifully produced. It works so well as a complete product as well as individual tracks and it continues to cement Charlotte Martin as one of the most reliable artists in the music business. A strong contender for album of the year.