Kate Martin – Synthetic Shoes, Leather Boots : Album Reviews
The relatively quiet Kate Martin is a newly discovered Aussie music jewel of mine. I had found her single, Lua, by chance on Triple J Unearthed (J fan or not, you gotta love that site) and adored it immediately. She’s easy to love, Martin; her midway accent allows her Australian cadence to peek through, but not to the oft-slammed Missy Higgins degree.
It’s an odd trait of Aussie music fans, isn’t it? The average punter will rag on a band that sounds, in their ears, “too American” by singing in what is essentially a much easier and more pleasing musical accent, but also denigrates anyone who sounds too Australian or “totally bogan”, as I’ve heard. I’ll try to refrain from entering thesis mode here, but it’s a thought to bank nonetheless.
Anyway, Lua is a loverly folksy opener; “I woke up, grumpy from the light/ Distracted by a pot of tea”, Martin cutely sings amid the tinkle and sway of the track’s warm and sunny disposition. It’s like a blanket made from cloud. Let Your Troubles Sleep follows; it’s slower and sadder, but similarly inviting. The thick, bulbous keys meld with xylophone; gorgeous.
Please and Thankyou has sparse but well-placed instrumentation; a wise move, as Martin’s voice is the star of the show. She displays a warm, beautiful vocal talent that I find so rarely in Australian music, and am always happy to discover. The brush-stroke drums and choral backing vocals make Please and Thankyou very poignant, but still somehow optimistic.
By Southern Rain, however, I am tiring somewhat of the balladry. Martin has a gorgeous voice, no doubt about that. And the album is well-produced and well-made. But the pop-folk smile of Lua has dissipated into a bevy of slower (though still divine, I maintain) tracks that kill the flow slightly. Still love it, though.
Bones utilizes a chilling flute in this nautical-styled number. Martin’s sweet, sad voice is alluring and weightless; “This is the house where you grew up/ This is the clock that you would watch as the days went by”. The album continues on its folksy ballad way until the darker, more electronic-ish mood and ethereal vocals of The Fall. It’s a pretty jagged deviation, but a good move. Checkmate.
The album ends with Sunflower, a starkly beautiful number (with the delightful addition of banjo) that forces you to focus full attention on Martin’s tender voice; “You can feel the wind as he whispers weather changing”. Sublime.