Ortolan – Time on a String

Ortolan – Time on a String

Regardless of your religious or cultural beliefs, even your ethical standpoints, a family is something that holds a special place in anyone’s heart. You may find a father who loves his daughter with all of his heart and while he may not be a devout Christian, realizes just how important that bond is. And then you can have a large family that is always involved, chiming in, supporting each other through their dogma, they can intimately personalize that to a strong family connection. When expressed and exemplified well, it can be a beautiful thing.

When Stephanie Cottingham began making music, little did she know what she had gotten herself in to. At a fragile thirteen years old, after just picking up the guitar, she would enter in time slots to perform at coffeehouses and before she knew it, she was playing with her two older sisters and a sister-in-law as Ortolan. And now, only three years older, she sounds firmly in control of her voice, her guitar skills and even, her songwriting ability. With talent like that and a strong band to come together in, Time on a String sounds like a jubilant family gathering where everyone’s invited.

You have to constantly double-check your facts because often, I was left wondering, “Wait, this is the music of a 16-yeard old (probably 15 when it was being recorded)? And on top of that, that’s her voice?” Calm and assured, their girl pop swoon reminds of older greats like The Shirelles and Motown but with an immediately polished sound, they also recall what someone like Regina Spektor would do if she were in a She & Him establishment. That even when Stephanie sings about compromises on “Opposites,” she sounds mature beyond her years and it all works to the greater good of an album that is directly set in sincere moments.

Somewhere along the way, you find yourself getting lost in the quartet’s soothing playing where every instrument is dependent on the next to succeed. There’s a strong sense of comfort on here and it can best be described with the press release’s remarks on “the remarkable support these sisters showed for each other, cheering one another as only siblings can.” There are moments on “Sleep, Sleep, Sleep” where these kind of heartfelt moments are not only reached but surpassed with deeply affective lines. In a choir setting, the sisters sing together, “You cry, you cry. You thought you were gonna die ‘cuz you thought you were alone…you weren’t alone.” And when the result is that poignant and that compassionate, you have no choice but to let go and succumb to their sugary likings.

But that’s just the thing with an album like Time on a String, that much like its title would lead you to believe, time can be pin-pointed on a string but once you pass it, it’s gone. So it isn’t necessarily the new coming of doo-wop or even what chamber pop/folk can be but a celebration of family and unity. And that bond – its joy, its feeling of togetherness, its overall satisfaction – is what Ortolan are clearly expressing with music that is just as easily heard and introduced. Through it all, it’s a tender opening gesture and in a day and age where first impressions are everything, a kindly welcome one.

“Sticky Situation” by Ortolan

Sounds Familyre