“For a band that’s three-quarters below legal drinking age (ages 16, 18, 20 and 23), the group of sisters and one sister-in-law known as Ortolan make some entrancing and wonderful pop music mature well beyond their youthful years. Kicking off with “Me N U,” the New Jersey quartet dish out a dreamy and catchy jangle pop delight with touches of Stereolab and Belle & Sebastian. The group then opts for ’50s-style balladry with “I’ll See You There” and Spector-esque girl group sounds on “Creature,” before closing with the strange and beautiful music box waltz of “Sand Castles.” These girls are young, but goodness, are they talented, and the four songs on their debut EP are enough to convince me that they’ve got a bright future ahead of them.” – Jeff Terich / Treblezine
“Family bands don’t make it big like they did in the past, with exceptions, of course, in the canon of Radio Disney musicians that sell out stadium shows and 3D concert movies. The Cottinghams are four sisters from southern New Jersey who, shortly after having learned how to play their instruments, came together to record their self-titled four-song EP under the direction of Sounds Familyre Records founder and producer Daniel Smith, who counts Sufjan Stevens among his roster. The sisters Stephanie (16), Brianna (17), Lara (20) and Jill (22) make the kind of music that brings to mind quiet Jersey suburbs and trips to Coney Island. The songs are deeply melodic and wistful, not far from the pop rock styles of another family band Eisley, who attracted listeners with a similar brand of homegrown craft and songwriting. Although no description of Ortolan can withstand their youthful family background, their music is more than just precious. Stephanie, the youngest, is the writer of the group, and her precocious talents as a lyricist make Ortolan worth considering in the next few years. The music isn’t overtly self-conscious, and with songs like “Sand Castles,” which begins with a Yann Tiersen-esque flourish from Amélie, one can only hope the sisters don’t lose their whimsy anytime soon.” – Abe Ahn / Evil Monito
“It’s not terribly often that I find myself recommending mailing lists, but Sounds Familyre have such a wholesomely grand roster I shall make an exception. As cherished and fondly warm as a hand-stitched keepsake quilt, this week they chose to tell me about Ortolan and I duly pootled around the internet to see what they sound like. You know, so I could tell you. And they are glorious, beautiful. Sounding a bit like She & Him might were they produced by Sufjan Stevens – to create a sort of She & She & She & She, they are four alt-pop Brontës who beam right into your stereo like a comforting aural torch you never need to buy batteries for. One which does not flicker and falter, even when you are out in the shed in the middle of the night investigating something spooky like a crap girl in a horror flick. Sort of like that.” – Wendy Roby / Drowned In Sound
“…the foursome produced a remarkably impressive debut, one that rings with effusive harmonies even as it manages to avoid the giddy sentiments that might otherwise endear them to the Hanna Montana crowd. Stephanie Cottingham writes songs from a knowing perspective, filling them with tangled emotions and heartfelt commitment. For every attempt at a cooing embrace (“Opposites,” “Insist For More”), there’s genuine deep-seated drama (“Once,” “Sticky Situation”) to affirm an edgier stance. Best referenced midway
between the Bangles and Go-Gos in terms of a girl group approach, there’s a kind of slacker sensibility at work here, one that never muffles the drive or conviction. “I was meant for something more,” Cottingham sings on the final track, aptly entitled “Anything” and indeed a lyric has never sounded so true. – Lee Zimmerman / Blurt
“Time On A String is an effortless record that breezes along easily, almost unnoticed, like the sweet springtime air… 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.” – Jordon Redmond / Tiny Mix Tapes
“Having endured way too many family road trips in tight quarters, I always have trouble wrapping my head around sibling bands. Whether fictional (The Brady Bunch, the Von Trapps) or otherwise (the Jackson 5), the smiling faces always seem like they’re a song away from a VH-1 Behind the Music special.
Which makes Ortolan all the stranger… the South New Jersey band is a perfect family making perfectly imperfect music.
On their debut album, Time on a String, out today, Ortolan layers garbled lyrics over instantly-catchy ’60s style tunes. Every time a song verges on hokey, the band draws it back to edge with a twinkling keys and backing “oh ohs”; every time a track veers towards predictability, they’ll lose you with a knock-out chorus or a thundering guitar riff…which helps explain part of the sibling band phenomenon: Musical talent is clearly genetic.” – Nylon