Ortolan Time On A String

[Sound Familyre; 2010]

Styles: twee pop
Others: The Ronettes, Ingrid Michaelson, Regina Spektor

South Jersey has been particularly hot in the popular lexicon as of late. Thanks to MTV’s Jersey Shore, the rest of the country has been exposed to that area’s considerably seedy underbelly. As a resident of South Carolina, I totally feel anyone from South Jersey who is pleading the case that their locale is more than Jägerbombs and Cheeto-tanned guidos. Its alarmingly easy for the media to stereotype a whole geographic area. There’s certainly more to South Carolina than slack-jawed yokels, and I’m sure South Jersey isn’t all machismo and date rapists.

Proof positive of Jersey’s versatility is Riverside’s Ortolan. This is a group of four young sisters aged 16-23 who play twee pop that even your grandmother could love. They take their name from a delicate songbird and write songs brimming with simple, honest enthusiasm. You can tell they are really happy with the basic act of making music and releasing it into the world. Spotted by a member of the Sounds Familyre family at a church coffeehouse, the group won the overwhelming approval of Daniel Smith (a.k.a. Brother Danielson), who agreed to produce and release their first proper album.

Time On A String is an effortless record that breezes along easily, almost unnoticed, like the sweet springtime air. Guitar, bass, keyboard, and drums make up the majority of the innocent clatter on display here. Like peanut butter and jelly, you can’t argue with the simplicity. “Insist For More” and “Be So Bold” are two tracks that embody the sort of unassuming honesty that Ortolan exudes. “Insist For More” is especially charming, as it’s about the faults of a Veruca Salt-like character, who is always wanting more. Vocalist Stephanie Cottingham, among Ronettes-style backing vocals, insists that “If I were her, I’d feel like I own the world/ If she were me, she’d feel like the poorest girl.” “Sticky Situation” is a song with a particularly sticky chorus, Cottingham’s vocals evoking Regina Spektor or Kate Nash. “Ludwig” is another adorable track featuring twinkling xylophone that, even though inaudible to Beethoven, would make the great man smile with its disarming sweetness.

This is an entry-level release from a group of young ladies just finding their musical voice. But that’s not to say that Time On A String isn’t without value. Ortolan’s debut album is a release with definite charm. It’s as light and satisfying as a choice pastry. Throw it on and enjoy it without too much fuss, as you would the gentle chirp of a spring songbird.

Links: Ortolan - Sound Familyre

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