Slippers to a Wedding
The track, Slippers to a Wedding, is available via:
27th July, 2018
WHEN I think about…
Martha Bean and her music, I am compelled to look at a few different things. I will talk about music self-produced and homemade; artists who get acclaim and stand aside from the pack; acoustic influences and modern artists who invoke the spirit of the greats; songs that make you feel comforted and give you guidance; artists who deserve to be big news and make changes in the industry. There are a lot of artists who record at home and get that very natural and intimate sound. I do not mind those who record in a studio but I always note something tender and evocative when you hear that homemade music. Martha Bean is an artist I have featured before and, every time I witness something new from her, I get the sense of an artist who wants to bring you into her world. A lot of modern artists write material that has a personal edge but it is harder to relate and connect when you note the studio-made nature. There is something lacking and synthetic coming from the speakers. Another reason why artists are doing the D.I.Y. route is that it is cheaper and easier. Studio rates are high and it can be difficult bonding with an unknown team/producers. It is the warmth and closeness I can feel from those home-produced recordings that the artist wants to bring you into their world and into their space. You get more involved with the music and the effect is a lot more physical. I hope I am explaining myself but, what I mean is, artists who record quite honest and uncomplicated music -a few elements but none of the polish of the studio – can make the notes and lyrics really strike. Polished production and the gadgetry of the studio can elevate music and bring new life to it but many of us want to hear new music that sounds close to a live recording. Bean, on her latest track, provides huge grace and passion; there is a lot at work and you get a real sense of who she is and what she is about.
I am not saying there is a big distinction between studio sounds and home recordings but there is a lot to recommend about the D.I.Y. method. Martha Bean has self-released her music this time around and seems to be taking a more independent route. I really love artists that take charge and have the confidence to take care of their own music. One of the reasons why I wanted to look at the independent route is the amount of creative control you have. There have been some big artists who have pulled away from labels and the demands of the studios and decided to record in their own way. Many new artists, when they get a certain amount of respect and attention, feel the need to get into the big studios and sign with a label. Others take a different approach and take that risk. In the case of Martha Bean; she has a lot of kudos – I shall get onto that later – and feels the best way to get her music to the next level is, in a sense, stripping it back. She has produced a song that has spoken to many and seems to resonate. Slippers to a Wedding is one of those moments that you drink in and are compelled to come back to time and time again. I have heard a lot of songs this year but few of them have managed to make a big an impact as Martha Bean. I will move onto a new topic soon but, before I get there, I will tip to social media and photos. This is a subject I look at now and then but I feel the visual side of music is quite important. Bean’s music is fantastic and she has gained a lot of respect from the media. The sounds are connecting but I am intrigued, too, by the aesthetic and visual side. She has some great photos out there but her musical dynamic lends to a rather captivating and eye-catching photoshoot. There need not be that many new snaps: a few that show her in different settings and add an extra dynamic to her portfolio. It is hard getting a lot of photos together – cost and the logistics – but Martha Bean is an artist who will be gracing magazine covers and interview pages for years to come.
Let me move on to another side of music and talk about respect. Many artists get into a position where they have the critical ear and the promise to go all the way. I always look at other reviews and how people take to certain musicians. What interests me is artists who tend to tick all the boxes. BBC Radio 6 Music have played Bean’s music and her album, When Shadows Return to the Sea, received four-star reviews. A lot of publications have hailed her as a voice to watch and a genuine talent. It is hard, at any stage of music, to get that sort of attention and praise. It is still early days for the songwriter and, already, she has won the ear of some big publications. It is impressive seeing artists get acclaim and it is something they can wear with pride. So many artists quit and retreat when the going gets tough; many take years to get great reviews and make it onto big radio stations. Martha Bean has worked hard but, more than anything, there is a natural voice and talent that takes the breath and stands aside. Distinguishing yourself from the crowd can be really difficult to do in this age. There are so many sound-alike artists and many are following others. It is difficult coming up with new sounds because there is less chance for mobility in the market. We have heard so much music and coming up with something original can be really tough. Bean has some notable influences but she puts her own voice and D.N.A. onto the page. She does not, like many, stay too close to their idols and provides something fresh and inspiring. One of the reasons why we often skip past artists and get a little jaded is because of the similar sounds. So many remind you of someone else – it is understandable they get overlooked and passed by. Modern music is a really tough industry and the competition is fierce.
Martha Bean has been plugging and playing for a long time but she has done her homework. She blends classic acoustic sounds with legendary Folk; puts in her own values and stirs it around. The critics have reacted to her fantastic music and many compare (Bean) to Nick Drake. That might sound like a bleak comparison – many are not saying she is grave and depressive. The Drake comparisons come when you hear the voice and lyrics. The former that can mix feather-light with something affected and shadowed; the latter that portrays poetic visuals and incredible language. Bean mixes personal sentiments with looks at the wider world. Her vocals are astonishing and there is so much range to be found. The comparisons the critics have made provide an opportunity for Bean to strike and grow. I have been looking around for artists who have the stamina and talent to endure for years and compel the generations. I am hearing a lot of great, acoustic-led artists who remind me of the greats. Bean has elements of Nick Drake but there are elements of Laura Veirs and Jeff Buckley. It is a fantastic and heady brew that gets into the blood and infuses the soul. I have been worried about modern music and how little focus is paid to artists away from Pop. You get all the spotlight and fuss regarding Pop mainstream and the big bands. How often do we look at music websites and the radio and find those honest and acoustic artists getting celebration?! They may perform softer, less dramatic sounds but that does not mean they are worth less. If anything, they are deeper and more substantial. Maybe we still look at the glamour and commercial side of music more than anything. I hope the tide turns and we start to place emphasis on solid songwriting and promise rather than fashion and familiarity. Many media sources have heaped praise on Martha Bean – I wonder how long before her music gets to a worldwide audience and she ascends to the heady steps of the mainstream.
I will come to another subject soon but I want to remain on this subject for a bit. Martha Bean does not limit her scope and subject matter. We all get into the position where we think artists of s certain sound will be limited and predictable. The acoustic-based artists, to them, are a little worn and there is not much variation. I think we often pigeonhole musicians and do not really listen to music as hard as we should. Listen to someone like Martha Bean and what she is singing about. I will investigate her latest single but, looking back, her songs have ranged from razor-sharp and witty to enigmatic and sobering. You get personal weight and clout alongside something light, humorous and open. That sort of width and range means the listener is treated to the full spectrum of her talent. It is important to be diverse and not limit yourself to the same subjects. Martha Bean takes influence from the likes of Radiohead and Debussy. She has been in the industry for a while but has not sold out and taken an easy route. She writes music that is true to her and, in turn, will always sound natural and pure. You get artists who are following trends and trying to please the critics. Bean has won the critical heart and is writing from a very genuine place. I have been revisiting strong female artists like Joni Mitchell and seeing how they managed to make such an impression on music. In fact, later today I will look at artists like Mitchell and how they created such a run of fantastic albums – look at her work post-Clouds (1969) and there is some of the finest music of her generation. I am keen to focus on great female artists but, more than anything, those who have something real to say and get under the skin. Consistency and longevity are not properties easy to perfect and sustain in today’s climate. Artists often change their sounds and adapt in order to stay relevant and find new light. If you are lucky enough to find a style that is solid and flexible from the off, that should not be overlooked.
My circumstances have changed over the past day or two. Yesterday, when writing a review, I was in the position of having a flat sorted in Manchester and, I thought, my life sorted. Not that I am floundering in the wilderness: it would have been a relief to be in a city where I want to live and the fact I do not have to search around too much. Things have changed dramatically and, after some lesson-teaching fraud, I have to look all over again. I am going back up to Manchester in a week or two but it is frustrating that things have changed and slipped so quickly. Music, yesterday, gave me the guidance needed to see through my plans and realise the choice I am making is the right one. Today, mind, I am looking for music that provides another round and encouragement and provides that support. It is difficult relocating – especially when you live far away – and very expensive too. That is all scary and challenging but a sense of resolve and focus needs to come in. Music is an important tool and aid when it comes to facing these hurdles. I am embarking on new challenges and need sounds that can keep me safe and open my eyes. Martha Bean’s latest cut has given me the relaxation and soothe I need to clear the head; the fascination and colour to ensure this review is as full as possible; a sense she is going to go a long way – which means I will spend time looking around current music and anyone who can match her sense of songwriting skill and passion. There is a long way to go for Martha Bean but she has laid down her marker and gained that critical heart. What interests me about her is the instant quality and beauty you get. I have not explored the nature of the voice and what a fantastic example can do to the listener. Martha Bean has one of those voices that conveys and carries so many different emotions.
You get the sense the songwriter, as a girl, searching through crates and record shops curiously looking at album covers and the delicious treat inside. I know music played a big part of her early life and she grew up around a variety of artists. Classical artists were part of the agenda; 1990s bands (still going today) like Radiohead were a big part – Bean also looked at Folk artists and legends who have pushed the industry forward. You listen to her voice and wonder where it comes from. Maybe there are flecks of other artists but you never get a big sense of anyone else coming to the fore. A powerful and potent voice has the ability to elevate music and ensure it lodges in the brain. I feel the voice is the most powerful part of the musical process. Great lyrics and music are important but the vocal element seems to have a lot more depth and sentient ability. It can touch you in ways composition can’t; it can say more than the words themselves and has the potential to change lives. Bean is an artist who has a rich and detailed voice that strikes hard and stands out from her contemporaries. I think she has the ammunition to remain a long time in the industry and transcend to the big leagues. She is masterful when it comes to crafting brilliant tracks and letting that incredible, gorgeous voice swim in the blood. I shall move on to look at Slippers to a Wedding and why I think it is a brilliant song. The songwriter is wetting the senses and asking many to ask what comes next for her. Each new release she brings into the world lingers in the mind and doesn’t fade from view – like so many of today’s songs do. I am a big fan of hers and am always amazed at what she can bring to music. Let’s get down to business and have a look at Martha Bean’s current single.
You get these songs that are perfect without visuals: some songs sound better, oddly, with visuals and little emphasis on the sound. Martha Bean, with Slippers to a Wedding, allows you to get two different impressions. The audio alone lets you cast one impression and viewpoint. Look at the video and you get another interpretation. Many artists feel music videos direct the listener too firmly in one direction and do not allow for personal interpretation. What we get on Bean’s latest single is a perfect accompaniment and companion to the song. The video brilliantly conveys the scenes and ideas inherent in the song. The opening moments of Slippers to a Wedding provide such beauty and imagination. The acoustic notes skip and ripple like a pond. You get impressions of a riparian vista or a casual stroll in the countryside. You can, fairly, hear elements of Nick Drake and you are instantly involved in the song. The playing is gorgeous and so much gold and brilliance arrives without a word being sung. When Bean starts to sing; the lyrics get the mind working. She talks about a newsreader falling asleep on the air whilst the world is listening – the weather report comes but he is dreaming. The video shows a moustached man with an orange jacket that puts you in mind of the 1970s/1980s. It is an illuminating and eye-catching way of presenting the lyrics and adding light to the story. I wonder if there is a literal meaning to the words. The news report and weather can mean important announcements in life. The ‘news’ might be guidance where that person needs to go in life; the ‘weather’, the predictions and how things will fare in the future. Rather than be awake and attuned to what is happening and where things will go; the heroine is looking at herself and a certain malaise. Perhaps she is using the newscaster as a metaphor for personal doubts and changing times. Rather than overtly open her soul; you get a parallel story of a snoozing televisual personality. Bean lets her voice weave and flies like a bird.
The words are given so much gravitas and personality. Each line and sentiment is projected with maximum acuity and resonance. Bean is able to go from crystal-like to deeper and more gravelled. Look at the video and we see a frog in a crown; avoiding a raincloud and surrounded by trippy forests and a sense of dreaming – nothing quite real and everything muddled. By that, I felt the heroine was talking about needing a secret kiss (when the frog kisses the princess and becomes real again – changing the gender to fit the story). Maybe our heroine is searching for a sense of clarity and someone who will be able to keep her safe. She says, in the song, we lose perspective and turn up to a wedding in slippers – again, maybe that is a sleepless mind getting tangled or an interpretation of someone being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I get the sense (the heroine) is entering a grand and regal world in her own clothes and life. Maybe things are not fitting together and where she is, emotionally, is different from the world around her – perhaps I am misinterpretation and quick to conclude. The songwriter, in the next scene, is locked out of the house as it starts to snow. She has seven hours to kill – a very precise estimation – and builds a fire. Maybe her knight in shining armour will arrive. I was looking at that period of time and got to thinking about employment and the ‘normal day’. It is a bit shorter than the working day but, again, being somewhere that is not ideal and making the best of it. Look back at the wedding paradigm and I sense a woman who is in an industry promoting glitz and a certain finery – she is more humble and homely but has so much potential and talent. Go back forward to the locked-out scene and you feel her yearning for a hero to whisk her away. I know Bean is in a happy relationship so, maybe, this desire is for a bigger and better life. She says, at the end, we often feel life slip away and lose its grasp when not looking. One of the great things about Slippers to a Wedding is how you get a very direct and emotional delivery but some oblique tapestry. We start with one person (newscaster) and then move to the heroine herself. I have given my interpretation but one can judge what the song is about. The composition-and-vocal unity is brilliant and so beguiling. You need a few spins for everything to seep in and register. A brilliant song that keeps you arrested, interested and invested; it is the strongest statement Martha Bean has created. This means, going forward, many will look to see what comes next – might we get more material that feels as good as this?!
The Leicester-based artist has spoken about new material and where she heads from here. I think, as she says, it is more likely an E.P. (rather than an album) will come along. I do not get to review many artists from that side of the country. It is good to get away from London and talk about somewhere that does not get a lot of attention. Bean has a great band behind her – including Joel Evans and John Bean. The combination of the players and her leading hand means you have a musician who has the potential to go wherever she pleases. She has that great backing and it means the live show is a lot fuller and more appealing. Many solo artists play acoustic and that only provides so much richness and energy. Bean can provide a rounded and varied live set that brings in new faces and brings her music to life. I have talked about her home-made nature and how her songs bring you into a cosy place. Bean is an artist who can balance close and still with the impassioned and grand. There is a lot of love coming from local BBC sources and the media is reacting to her latest effort. I can see Bean embarking on a tour of the U.K. There are some great acoustic artists out there who are getting tongues wagging. As opposed bands and some solo artists; people like Martha Bean have the malleability to play in churches/cathedrals and conventional venues. I am keen to see her play and know she would prove a very popular live fixture across the world. She has played around the U.K. but I feel there are audiences waiting in America and Australia. Maybe the financial side of things will limit touring ambitions but Bean should definitely look ahead. There are a lot of great musicians out there and I hope each of them gets the chance to go a very long way.
I am growing a little weary of the mainstream and what is being heralded as the best. Too many artists who do not ‘fit’ into what is deemed popular and on-trend are getting overlooked. Investigate and listen to someone like Martha Bean and you get a lot more wonder and talent. I will end the review soon but I want to end by rounding things off and hinting where Bean can go. Slippers to a Wedding, and its video, seem to encapsulate all the sides of the young songwriter. There are those lyrics that make you smile and have variation. At once, you might feel a little confused and uncomfortable (in a good way); you might then find something heart-warming and cute; something funny and earnest. It is a heady and eclectic song that definitely gets you coming back. The animated video (by Adam Aiken) reminds me of classic cartoons and something vintage. Listen to the lyrics of the song and you sense someone wrestling with their life and looking for a sense of purpose. The track looks at fictional figures but you always sense there is a lot of personal impetus. Bean has a great way with words and bringing in enticing characters and visions. The way she delivers her messages gets the heart skipping and makes you stay with her. I have heard very few songwriters who have the same skillset and sound as her. She brilliantly weaves together scenes and ideas without being too wordy; never too full-on with her vocals but always putting in her everything. I know there will be more material coming down the line and many more ears will turn her way. Listen to Slippers to a Wedding and look back at what Bean has created. The songwriter is getting better and more ambitious with every song she brings out. I am glad I have returned to her shores and uncovered a song that shows what an immense talent…
SHE truly is.
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