Ortolan – Time On A String Album Review

“I’m ready/ I’m ready for anything you give me,” sings Ortolan’s Stephanie Cottingham on “Anything.” The lyrics of the opening track of Ortolan’s full-length debut, Time On A String, echo the anticipation surrounding the album’s release. And what you are given are dazzling songs with seemingly pretty surfaces belying a deeper exploration of struggles, aspiration and resolve. Take the gorgeous “Opposites,” whose very title runs like a ribbon throughout this album. “Why do things go the opposite way?/ Like saying “yes” to things when you really wanna say “no way”/ Things like this happen I know because it’s true/ Sometimes we just can’t pick what we wanna do /Just go along with it and try to pull through.”

 

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.

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