Ketchup: Charlotte Martin

("Ketchup" is what I'm calling posts about established artists who have a wealth of material to explore. These are singers or bands who are four to five albums deep into their careers, usually with a devoted following, but don't receive the same coverage as peers with similar sounds.)


This edition is about Charlotte Martin. I've been listening to Charlotte since she released her EP Testdrive Songs via CDBaby. This was during my Tori Amos obsession, and Charlotte was positioned as the successor to Tori. Of course, as "Toriphiles," every girl who sang and played a piano was dubbed the next Tori Amos, so we were just as sick of hearing the phrase as these ladies were. Being compared to Tori is far from a negative, but carving out your own identity and sound is tough.

Charlotte is different. Not only does she have piano chops that bounce between delicate, intricate arrangements to brooding, bass-heavy compositions, but Charlotte Martin is classically trained in opera. Throughout her career, we've heard Charlotte utilize her otherworldly vocal chords in songs like "Just Before Dawn" and "Greater Lights." This training provides the backdrop for larger-than-life performances on every album. 

As with every girl and a piano, confessional songwriting is Charlotte's forte. Aside from tackling the standard concepts of traditional gender roles, depression, and failed love, Charlotte's gone deeper. On her last studio album, Dancing Through Needles, the song "Animal" (the version I've linked is the rendition I saw live at Schubas in Chicago and blew me away) clawed at the detachment she felt when she couldn't care for her son after suffering a life-threatening nerve condition. The pain the experience caused is palpable, using a feral animal to represent the feelings of loneliness and misunderstanding she felt. This daringness found interwoven in countless Charlotte Martin songs makes her emotionally engaging and unpredictable. 

In 2004, Charlotte released her major label debut On Your Shore via RCA. The album didn't do much, but did yield some of her best songs like "Every Time It Rains" and the Kate Bush-sounding "Limits Of Your Love." Charlotte gained another boost of public recognition when her song "The Dance" was used on an episode of So You Think You Can Dance. Truly one of her best songs, and deserving of the exposure.

Charlotte is set to release her eighth studio album Water Breaks Stone (although her discography is supplemented by quite a few high quality EPs) on February 25th. If you catch her on tour, she's currently selling the new record at her shows. Otherwise, pre-orders should begin soon via her official website. Prior to pre-ordering, I've made this 10 song playlist so you can familiarize yourself with her stunning discography.