“I have developed the habit of walking briskly through art museums. I do this for a couple reasons. First, it is simply not possible to take everything in (the psychic toll would be too great). Second, and more to the point, I do this to find the paintings that would reach out and include me. With most of my artistic encounters these days, whatever the medium or cultural expression, whether it's a painting, song or movie, I rarely feel like I'm a part of the equation. Usually I just feel assaulted: painted at, sung at, acted at. But when I am hailed by a work, invited by it, when it recognizes me as a kindred participant in its quest, I stop.
In this case I am greeted by “Time On A String”, the new album from Ortolan, a group of wonderful young women from Southern New Jersey. Why am I able to pause here? Why do I feel included? Why do I suddenly feel like family? It must be a gift given. I’m reminded of the fifties and early sixties, when things were secure and prosperous, when we had the time and freedom to grow and develop. New winds were blowing through the radio: the Shirelles, the Shangri-La's, the Marvelettes. Unnumbered others. It was the Golden Age of American Rock n' Roll. It was alright to be a teen then, to grow up in a family. You might have parents who loved and cared, even an older brother who would protect you. We didn't feel like we had to be instant adults, or wise beyond our years. Ortolan knows many of these things, and this is much of the reason why “Time On A String” is such brave music. Stephanie (guitar, lead singer and songwriter), Brianna (bass and background vocals), Lara (drums and background vocals), and Jill (keyboards and harmonies) all seem to have had the opportunity to actually grow up and grow up gradually, resisting the pressure to be someone before they've become someone.
Luxuriating within the lustrous musical harbor of the Ortolan sisterhood is the great strength of Stephanie Cottingham's lyrics. She talks of space and place, street corners, trees, and “sitting here reading this all on the ground.” We are able to explore these rooms with her, dream alongside her, join her in the desire to “Be So Bold” and “wish I could live…to the fullest”. We know with her that “I was meant for something more”. We face “Sticky Situations” in the midst of which we struggle to “make things better” and believe the best about people and ourselves. Daniel Smith's fine production has framed all this in such a way that there is little to hinder our entrance.
Music like this is rare. It addresses us kindly, directly, without pretense or irony. It is not cool or hip or self-contained. It is unabashedly vulnerable, open to encounter. It's not often anymore that you hear the music of young people. Not just young people, but anyone who is still engaged in becoming who they are. Ortolan includes us in the family, encouraging us to grow along with them. As we walk from room to room, past painting after painting, here is something that invites us to pause, enter in, and to become a kindred participant in its quest.”
-Dan Zimmerman, 2009
2. Sticky Situation
3. Be So Bold
4. Just Like Me
6. Insist For More
8. Sleep, Sleep, Sleep
10. Mirror Image