The tension between opposites connects Ortolan’s debut album. There’s youth and maturity; at the ages of 16, 18, 20 and 23 respectively, the sisters Cottingham create songs wise beyond their years. Tied tightly therein are knots between past and present. This latter bind is displayed in the lyrics and diverse sounds of the songs, which range from the fifties feel of chord progressions in “Once,” to instrumentation evocative of the French musician and composer Yann Tiersen (recall the movie Amelie) in “Ludwig.”
Sister Stepahanie Cottingham’s vocals loosely evoke the inflections of current British female artists like Kate Nash, Lily Allen, and even Florence and the Machine. Yet, hailing from New Jersey, Ortolan are distinctive musically as well as geographically. If you haven’t heard them, they cite their influences as The Beatles, Regina Spektor, Ingrid Michaelson, and fellow Sounds Familyre comrade Sufjan Stevens. Yet as fans of their EP will know, Ortolan are unique, and this individuality grows on Time On A String, which, as both a cord tied to your past, present and future, is a moveable and matchless listen.