“ The sort of debut album most young singer/songwriters probably dream about making … an utterly enchanting debut. **** ”
– Allan Wilkinson, Northern Sky Magazine
“ Slick, intriguing and highly listenable, it makes you wonder what the record companies were doing, letting this one pass them by… Judging by this debut she has the talent, the voice and the imagination to stand out from the crowd. **** ”
– Dan Coxon, R2 Magazine
“ There’s no doubting the talent on display ”
– Steve Bennett, Acoustic Magazine
“ …an album filled with the sort of exciting and enigmatic music that starts off every one of the Spy movies. 8/10 ”
– Tim Stokes, Americana UK
“ the album will make you want to catch a train to the shore and watch the scenery go by slowly. ”
– Guestlist.net review
“ Wonderfully crafted songs which always evoke a great response. A terrific performer who I’d be happy to watch for hours! ”
– Dean Jackson, BBC Introducing
“ finger-picking guitar wizardry and pitch-perfect falsetto ”
– Simon Ward, Leicester Mercury
Northern Sky Magazine
For a self-released debut, Martha Bean’s ‘When Shadows Return To The Sea’ is remarkably assured. Slick, intriguing and highly listenable, it makes you wonder what the record companies were doing, letting this one pass them by. For once the inevitable comparisons with Norah Jones and Fiona Apple won’t stretch the imagination.
Apple’s influence is most clearly heard on single ‘Who Changed The Clocks?’ and album opener ‘When The Fear Comes’, two soaring chamber-pop songs that remain just the right side of quirky.
Bean’s vocals are natural enough to sound effortless too, infusing even the simpler tracks with depth and emotion.
Closer ‘I Still Remember’ is as moving and engaging as anything on the album, despite it’s quirk-free aesthetic.
In a marketplace flooded with singer-songwriters, it would be a shame for Martha Bean to remain unnoticed. Judging by this debut she has the talent, the voice and the imagination to stand out from the crowd. All it takes is one hit song. Maybe 2015 will be her year.
– Dan Coxon, R2 Magazine June 2015
Northern Sky Magazine
WHEN SHADOWS RETURN TO THE SEA is the sort of debut album most young singer/songwriters probably dream about making. Leicester-based Martha Bean has an assured command over fine melodies that are both beautifully crafted as well as being instantly accessible to the listener, most probably due to the early influence of classical music, both her parents being classical musicians; dad John Bean himself takes the cello solo on To Make the Whole World Happy.
There are certainly other influences at work here as well, notably that of Nick Drake on Catching Stars, which Martha absorbs into the very fabric of her music, which in turn comes out pretty much her own. Occasionally the influences are worn directly on her sleeve such as The Conversation, which I imagine is influenced by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová’s Grammy nominated Falling Slowly, but I could be mistaken.
Having played the piano from a very early age, the multi-instrumentalist fearlessly tackles all the dramatic orchestral arrangements herself with astonishing results, especially on Who Changed the Clocks and the superb opener When the Fear Comes, both very much show-pieces on the album.
This is an utterly enchanting debut.
– Allan Wilkinson, Northern Sky Magazine April 2015
Although not particularly melancholic in tone, there is something wistful about Martha Bean’s debut album ‘When Shadows Return To the Sea’, released on April 6th. Opening track ‘When The Fear Comes’ introduces the listener to her hauntingly pitched vocals over a slowly building piano part that peaks in anguished yowls – reminiscent of the early work of Coldplay when they were just a piano led indie-pop outfit..
Having said that, songs like Martha’s latest single ‘Who Changed the Clocks?’ manage to conjure the same level of bombasticity of their later career, with the swelling use of a 16-piece orchestra accentuating each crescendo. The breathy, jazz tones provided over the top swirl together to form a mix of Norah Jones channelling the late, great Lou Reed.
A classically trained, multi-instrumentalist, Martha Bean switches seamlessly from using the piano with prominence to guitar led tunes that have more than just a hint of Laura Marling about them; but perhaps with a shade more optimism with their folksy intent drawing out the similarities.
Despite so many comparisons being cast about, the defining feature of the music that sets it apart from its influences is they way it bleeds from one theme into another whilst still taking on a softly singular form throughout the album.
Take, for example, the third and fourth singles in the collection. ‘Song of the Sea’ is a lilting and gentle piece whose dreamlike aesthetic and comforting tones act almost as a lullaby for adults. This is then followed by ‘The Conversation’ which begins with a dangerously catchy opening that verges on the periphery of pop before returning to the safety of a more folksy standpoint, but neither this nor the preceding offering seem out of place on the album, or indeed next to each other.
‘Spit it Out’ injects the first edge of steeliness into the record, with a story of lament, backed by a gloriously sinister bass line that hints at a possible darkness beneath the meek surface.
The final few tracks seem to continue along this road, with ‘To Make The Whole World Happy’ decrying the impossible nature of such a task, and ‘Bad Blood’ almost rejoicing in the anger held for someone else.
As it draws to a close, ‘I Still Remember’ seems to offer up the final return to earlier, upbeat tones but instead strikes a middle ground with the pain of loss tempered by cautious optimism and the joy of memory.
All in all, the cathartic storytelling of ‘When Shadows Return To The Sea’ coupled with the light and tender compositions make it a very sellable album that deserves success.
– Vincent JS Wood, Candid Magazine April 2015
Listening to her latest record, you get feeling Martha Bean would write a killer James Bond theme. ‘When Shadows Return To The Sea’ is an album filled with the sort of exciting and enigmatic music that starts off every one of the Spy movies. Quite simply, here is a record that at times feels as iconic as much of Bond’s music of the past 50 years. Leicester-based Martha Bean is quite the impressive musician. She was bought up by two classical musicians, plays guitar, piano, double bass, banjo and clarinet, and even arranged the 16-piece string orchestra present on this, her debut. However, more importantly than her playing ability is the fact that she is clearly a very fine songwriter.
Bean’s music doesn’t settle on being plain or run-of-the-mill but instead delves into much more intriguing places. Opener ‘When The Fear Comes’ sets the tone with it’s mysterious languid beginning that bursts with a punching chorus, while ‘Song Of The Sea’ is a wonderful string-tinted ballad that always maintains a thrilling edge. With each passing track the album develops further, hinting at the likes of Nick Drake and a melodic Radiohead but remaining something new and different. With ‘When Shadows Return To The Sea’, Martha Bean has produced a highly accomplished record that is as accessible as it is interesting. With production on the next Bond movie in full swing, clearly somebody needs to be contacting Sony Pictures soon.
8 / 10
– Tim Stokes, Americana UK April 2015
Stylistic hints of Norah Jones and a breathy, swooping vocal delivery.
There’s no doubting the talent on display; Bean not only excels on guitars, keyboard and woodwind, she orchestrated the string arrangements, including her Dad’s solo cello accompaniment on the ironically-titled ‘To Make The Whole World Happy’.
Sufjan Stevens-meets-Debussy vibe.
Think Kate Bush with a hangover.
– Steve Bennett, Acoustic Magazine : April 2015
Martha Bean’s album When The Shadows Return To The Sea, which will be released on April 6, is our first introduction to the singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. And after having listened to the ten intricately performed songs, it came as a surprise to learn that When Shadows Return To The Sea is Miss Bean’s debut album.
From the powerful vocals and solid build-up on ‘Bad Blood’ to the comforting ‘Song Of The Sea’, which will make you want to call up an old friend, it is hard to believe that this is her first release. Playing not only the guitar, piano and double bass, this Leicester native also carries the album with a delicate vocal mastery. She expresses herself in poetic lyrics that warrant repeat listening, especially since we still haven’t quite figured out the album’s title.
Wistful but never melancholy, fragile but never weak, contemplative but never brooding, the album will make you want to catch a train to the shore and watch the scenery go by slowly.
Though we wouldn’t soon put this album on our work-out playlist, we can give Miss Bean our unequivocal endorsement and we look forward to seeing how the public will react to When The Shadows Return To The Sea.
– Guestlist.net March 2015
Listen With Monger
I’m really not sure where to start with this one. Leicester singer-songwriter Martha Bean (great name for starters) is about to unleash her new single on the world and, boy, I hope you’re ready. ‘Who Changed The Clocks?’ is an intense, piano-led slice of passion and desperation that builds, swoons, sweeps and generally envelopes you in a world of heart-rending emotion that is so often missing from music these days.
Bean’s piano and impressive vocal is given power by a perfectly understated rhythm section and some well used strings that lend a glimmer of hope to proceedings. Sure, it’s obvious to reference Tori Amos but her influence is in there in the moments that go from soft to powerful in the tinkling of an ivory. But there are also influences from the likes of Ani Di Franco, Regina Spektor, Coldplay, Ben Folds, Rufus Wainwright and Arcade Fire which all sit in the background, respectfully in awe of Martha Bean and her many, many talents.
There’s an album to follow in April and I, for one, cannot wait.
– Roland Monger, Listen With Monger March 2015
Fresh On The Net
Leicester based folk musician Martha Bean was the runaway favourite among the denizens of the Listening Post this week, with her tune Song of The Sea. And it’s not too hard to see why so many were completely smitten by it, as it is a song full of charm, delicateness, and pure, unadulterated loveliness (plus it’s a bit nautical, which I’m instantly inclined to enjoy).
She’s picked up support slots with Seth Lakeman and Marika Hackman in the past, and if Song of The Sea is anything to go by, she is going to pick up a whole lot of new admirers as well.
“Song of the Sea” is an intriguing taster for the album, its gently rolling acoustic rhythms and Bean’s pure and beautiful vocals accompanied by a beautifully judged string arrangement.
Music Musings and Such 04/2013
The female solo market is one that is readily quantifiable… and one in which, quantity doesn’t automatically equate to quality. For all the self-assured and acclaimed artists such as Adele, Jessie Ware and Laura Marling, it is counterbalanced, and drowned by a sea of mediocre jobsworth attempts at trying to project credibility and something that sets them apart. It is not simply good enough to turn up, sing the songs and that is that. Should you want to remain in the public consciousness for a long while, there needs to be a profitable and original synopsis laid out. There is not the inequality and discrimination within music as there is within business and society as a whole- everyone is free to play. And although it is bands that seems, by and large, to garner the majority of plaudits and close inspection, the life of the solo artist is just as curious and valuable. I am a big fan especially of the female variation of solo talent. Mainly because the subject matter can be more intriguing and variable, as well as the fact that the voice that enunciates the esprit de corps csan be more spellbinding and charged, makes the overall experience more wondrous and scintillating. Kate Bush and Eva Cassidy are two of my all-time favourite ‘voices’. Between them, they are able to evoke wistfulness, peace and tranquility, and do what the best singers manage to do: stop you in your tracks.
The road travelled by Martha Bean, is a triumphant one. It has been said (by Leicester Mercury) that she has managed to win over the most rambunctious of audiences with her “fingerpicking wizardry and pitch-perfect falsetto”. A Cassidy/Bush sized hole is already starting to be filled in. A counter-proposal to those resigned for the fact, that what they will hear is going to consist of insubstantial personal heartache and inconsequential oddity, will be in for a kick in the teeth. The songs of Miss Bean are introspective, as well as illuminating, her tones comparable to Ella Fitzgerald and Joan as Policewoman. She is gorgeous, sweet-natured and striking; synonyms most commonly reserved for the more hollow variety of female singer. Add to the mix the fact that she has already released quite a bit of music, including her current E.P., ‘State Of The Art’.
The latest offering from the electric songstress is ‘A Piece Of This World’. The interview to find out whether it will be good enough to captivate wholly, is a mere formality, arriving as it does with processional and plucked guitar strings. They are low and rain-addled, but portray a romanticism, and provide an instant disambiguation to any myths one may have as to the term ‘singer-songwriter’. In a way it is a tonal 180 degrees of Nick Drake’s track ‘Horn’, from ‘Pink Moon’. It shares genetic material and is as misty-eyed in its mystique. Following a brief pause, the voice peaks from the clouds. I can see where the Joan as Policewoman comparisons emanate from. Bean has a similar husky stillness and sex appeal to her voice. There is also a touch of Bjork (at her most relaxed); with a shading of Feist. The best way to get the full flavour from the song is to close your eyes and picture the song and the images it weaves. Your mind becomes an intoxicated povitika of mixed emotions. I can understand why Radio Cardiff heralded her voice as “hauntingly beautiful”. Any erroneous thoughts are evaporated as Martha speaks of heartache and doubt, imploring the audience “to open up/Once in a while/When you’re lonely/And feeling blue”. It is a thematic premise that is pertinent throughout, and emotional relevant to most people. Martha has said in interviews that the E.P. and songs are quite commercial-sounding (but in a good way), and her greatest time of inspiration, is when she has more of a frown on her face. The mood of the song- far from being morose- is relaxed and seductive. There is a pleasing assuredness to the track, and when the falsetto reaches it augmented high, the comparisons to Eva Cassidy and Ella Fitzgerald are warranted. When she sings “it’s real love”, her voice holds and floats, all at once, entrancing and pure. Martha, too, has an impressive affinity with acoustic guitar as well. She is nimbly able to evoke maximum emotional resonance from a few notes; deftly weaving a tapestry of low-angled curiosity, which compliments the vocals, and transcends the overall mood. In the same way the likes of Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell were able to illiterate their words and substantiate their mandate; Bean is equivocal in her talents. The inclusion of cello and viola around about the 2:00 mark, aggrandises the song, and adds an extra layer of beauty and evocation. Martha has found love, and a foothold of hope, but hopes that it will“see me through”. As with all the most memorable and truest love songs, there is always a sense of heartache- whether it is secret or not. The song is terrifically assured and pioneering. It has echoes of past masters, but is imbued with such a modern and tangible freshness, that it is sure to speak directly to everyone.
I share a similar reticence to Jon Dodd of The Monograph. In relation to the flotilla of female solo talent, there is a lot of conjecture thrown around, proclaiming that ‘Miss-so-and-so’ is ‘the next Adele/JessieWare/Rhianna’(delete as appropriate). 90% of these statements are crass hyperbole and send repulsed shivers down my spine. Few artists, full stop, have as much potential as hyperactive and under-educated media reviewers say they have. Dodd stated (in relation to Bean’s E.P.): “is, and will continue to be, in my eyes, a local classic”;adding later that (the E.P.) was “enigmatic and sobering”. I agree with those sentiments. ‘A Piece Of This World’ stands firmly above its multitude of kissing cousins. The voice that whispers from Bean’s lips is one of the reasons. It has the sweetness, stillness and plain wonderment that Cassidy does. At times I was thinking about her (Cassidy’s) rendition of ‘Fields of Gold’. That song is viewed as one of the greatest cover versions of all time, and – coupled with one of the greatest voices of all time- is certainly in my top 5. To compare Bean to Cassidy is not false economy. She has the potential to create a legion of adoring fans, and whilst many classic female songwriters gained a tributary of adulation posthumously, it will take only months for Martha to achieve a wide fandom. The fact that she writes her own material, and is a skilled lyricist, as well as musician, works well in her favour too, and she has a keen ear for the contemporary need, as well as an intelligent appreciation of artists past.
Bean has a wise and ardent appreciation for the supply and demand’s topography and intimate diary entries. She knows that simply ‘being’ will not be enough, regardless of how gorgeous, ambitious or genuine a human she is. She has complied a tight and ecclesiastical number that ruminates and sweeps. The E.P. will be a timely reminder, to the multitude of forthcoming talent, on how it should be done. The E.P. is gaining a few fans in the media, and even more wider afield. Having listened to a couple of Martha’s song, I can attest that ‘A Piece Of This World’ is no epithetical fluke. In time more songs will be created, and albums and tours will be a very real prospect. For now, enjoy Bean whilst she is in the infancy of her career. She deserves a lot more attention and plaudits, and it is free to listen to her tracks, and costs nothing to get in touch and let her know how awesome her voice, music and words are. So do it. In a climate where ‘ten a penny’ is a term that can be appropriately twinned with ‘singer-songwriter’ say hello, and congratulations to a talent, who will soon be defined, proudly, by the following saying: … ‘The next Martha Bean’.
– Sam Liddicott ‘A Piece Of This World – Track Review’ April 2013
Arts In Leicestershire 01/2013
Now, the evening was really taking off, as Martha Bean lead her fellow musicians on the stage for a set of divine songs that were difficult to rival. Having attended Martha’s recent EP launch, I already knew what was to come but loved it nevertheless.
On guitar and vocals was Martha and close by her cellist, John Bean and viola player Mirka Arnold. Richly harmonised and blended sounds filled the room for this deliciously lovely musical treat, full of magically orchestrated instrument parts.
Martha has a voice you would never tire of listening to. The trio’s set of songs were transportingly enjoyable and laced with haunting melodies, delivering what was for me one of the highlights of the evening. The last song, taken from the recent EP, was superb.
– Trevor Locke ‘OBS Unplugged Showcase’ January 2013
Singer and songwriter Martha Bean brought her band and her music to the stage of the Musician on 11th January to launch her new single A Piece Of This World.
Leicester singer Elizabeth Cornish provided the supporting slot for the night. Elizabeth was on stage with her bassist Jason Smith. Elizabeth’s exquisite guitar picking and sumptuous vocals provided a perfect warm up for Martha’s set. Together they delivered a set of enchantingly lovely sounds, deepened with a strong sense of mood and colour, conveyed with delicacy and laced with some vibrant passages.
Songs that were gently uplifting and full a tantalising dynamics provided a perfect entrée for the main performance to follow. She sang some of her established works and a couple of new ones, effortlessly putting life and feeling into them.
The Musician was the perfect setting for this wonderful music event and the full -house audience was treated to a top class sound system, deftly engineered by Malc Randall at the control desk. It goes to show that there is an audience for acoustic music in Leicester, if artists of this quality are on the bill.
Martha Bean and her musicians came to the stage, including Martha on guitar and lead vocals, Joel Evans on the Wurlitzer (electric piano) , Mirka Arnold on viola, John Bean on cello, Adam Ellis on bass and vocals and Joe Manger on drums.
Martha began with the song from her EP, in which we heard fine orchestration of the various instruments during the set of beautifully constructed songs. The full audience listened attentively as Martha sang a delightful, new song about an old school friend, continuing her theme of nostalgia. During the show, photos were projected on to a screen at the back of the stage to add to the feel of the show.
Martha’s EP, The State Of The Art, is available on Amazon, iTunes, BandCamp and other outlets.
The title track from the EP, State of The Art, a song full of transportingly lovely sounds and beguiling harmonies. The music we heard tonight was gentle, captivating and eloquent, delivered by one of Leicester’s most celebrated vocalists and backed with a group of impressive musicians. A superb experience for lovers of fine music.
The Monograph 01/2012
“’The State Of The Art’ is, and will continue to be, a local classic, in my eyes and hopefully the rest of the city and beyond. This rare gem which was recorded in my old stomping ground of Lutterworth, is tender and haunting and there is something quite unique about this Leicester songstress.
With the amount of female guitar singer/songwriters on the scene at the moment, I must admit that I approached this EP with a certain sense that I already knew what to expect, but as soon as the title track ‘The State Of The Art’ hits those first few romantically saddened strings, I was aware I was wrong.
This who EP is really enigmatic and sobering. Martha’s voice seems to hark of something vintage, while still being as fresh as ever.
If I was to guess at influences and what Martha grew up on I would say film, theatre and musicals. I may well be wrong and she may have spent her formative years listening to Oasis and dying her hair like the rest of us, but if this EP is anything to go by, I doubt it.”
– Jon Dodd, The Monograph : ‘The State Of The Art CD Review’ January 2012
“The support was a young Leicester musician, Martha Bean, who is a rising star on the local circuit. She’s a singer songwriter, classically trained on a number of instruments but self taught on the guitar… Her introspective songs and strong intricate vocals, with a flavour of early Joan as Policewoman, held the crowd spellbound and she radiated a composure and gentle strength that overcame any nerves about supporting someone as illustrious as Seth himself. Look out for her also playing with additional accompaniment from the excellent Joel Evans. Martha is currently recording an EP for release in summer – check out ‘Dream a Little Dream’ on her website (marthabean.com), with Joel on bass, recorded at Demon FM.”