Here’s an artist who has not allowed herself to be pigeonholed. She has worked on a range of genres and with various production approaches. She could have gone electronic, she could have gone indie but instead, she has gathered up a whole new range of genres to call her own. On this album, local singer Liz Martin shows her maturity not by saying I’ve found my niche, but by saying ‘I can do it all’. You’ll hear glam rock, Hebrew melodies, New Orleans big band tunes, Parisian sultriness, and sci-fi romanticism. Phew, wouldn’t that be exhausting as a listen? In a word, no. More like evocative, alluring and strangely comforting. And played by wonderful musicians!
- Tim Ritchie, ABC Radio National
Liz Martin's latest album, 'Dance a Little, Live a Little' is wildly eclectic, with many musical styles served well by a great crew of players but the underlying theme is one of quirky, playful hipness coupled with emotional openness.
Liz co-produced the album with bassist Dave Symes, who also did most of the string and horn arrangements. Hamish Stuart drums, Stu Hunter plays keys, James Greening plays trombone and pocket trumpet and strings enter unexpectedly. The styles range from straight ahead pop to jazz to rockabilly and more on this ever-changing, surprising ride of an album.
- Lucky Oceans, The Daily Planet, ABC Radio National
Indie songstress Liz Martin has the kind of voice that makes you want to lean in close - a deep, lush, beautiful sound. It’s a voice and talent that’s earned her a gold record with Paul Mac, tour spots with Sigur Ros, Silverchair and The Black Keys and the long-standing respect and admiration of Sydney’s underground electronic scene.
Now after many months spent exploring warm 60s & 70s sounds and working with some of Sydney’s finest musicians Liz Martin is releasing her stunning third album "Dance a Little, Live a Little" - hot on the heels of her super catchy single of the same name which has been bouncing its way onto our radios.
In a sweet spot between pop, folk and jazz Liz Martin has found a poetic groove with a remarkable collection of songs that reference Glam rock, Hebrew melodies, New Orleans big bands, Parisian noir thrillers and sci-fi romanticism. Ranging from sophisticated pop to playful instrumentals and tender ballads "Dance a Little, Live a Little" has the special lustre that comes from real performances rather than the cutting and pasting of formula pop.
Inspired arrangements featuring brass, reeds and strings rise over a bed-rock of piano, bass and drums. "I wanted to write more playfully - to escape and dream as well as purge some emotional angst. Over a long period of exile I wrote and recorded in my room. I played the parts in myself and sang little horn lines. By the end of it I was very ready to hang out with some real people. And real musicians! I wanted to let the songs loose."
A departure from her two previous albums (Beneath The Stars, Night Music) "Dance a Little, Live a Little" delivers a new, mature sound guided by the fresh open arrangements and co- production of local bass meister Dave Symes (Sleepy Jackson, Sarah Blasko, Missy Higgins) and features Hamish Stuart (drums), Stu Hunter (keys), Veren Grigorov (violin/viola), Dirk Kruithof (guitar) and Mr Percival (guest vocals on an excellent cover of Bowie’s Sound and Vision).
A brilliant and tender album full of honesty, lightness and humour Liz Martin proves that a little bit of dancing can come from a whole lot of living. This album marks the coming of age of one of Sydney’s finest independent talents and most beautiful voices. Liz Martin lures you in with the restrained tone of a female Cohen doing Rickie Lee Jones. These are songs that burn with a cool flame.
- Ian Shadwell, likeithateit.net
Liz Martin doesn't waste time with many folkie/singer-songwriter tropes here: not for her earnest faux intensity or simple hum-along/strum-alongs. Maybe it's her background with electronic artists, maybe it's having some fine jazz players on hand or maybe just a busy spirit. Whatever it is, this album continues to surprise. Long Bad Day, for example, feels like a speakeasy, James Greening's trombone putting some high-class sleaze on top, while the instrumental Be What May pokes its tongue out at you, David Bowie's Sound and Vision is given some jazz swing and the late-night sadness of Oh comes across like some two-cigarettes-in-the-ashtray moment. While So Long finds Martin's deep voice offering some cabaret, the title track has the bounce - and hooks - of bright pop. That's plenty of variety for when Martin plays at Notes in Newtown on Saturday Night.
- Bernard Zuel, Sydney Morning Herald
When you see the names Dave Symes and Hamish Stuart on an album that is as good as a stamp of approval – “Quality Product Contained Within”. That Symes produced the album, and that Liz Martin already had two highly promising albums to her name heightens the sense of expectation. "Dance a Little, Live a Little" doesn’t disappoint. Think Rickie Lee-Jones meets Leonard Cohen in Paris. Think jazz meets pop in a smokey 60′s swinging bar. Think good thoughts. Forget those So Frenchy, So Chic compilations, take one listen to the title track here and feel all the liberation of Europe in the 1960′s. Liz Martin is an artist who works into her songs, less personal revelations than lovingly constructed offerings. And in Symes and company she has a band who have found the groove and feel for each carefully composed piece; and her choice of cover – David Bowie’s lesser known Sound and Vision – not only perfectly complements the albums original tunes but adds and external element of surprise and difference (with Mr Percival providing the duet voice). That the album was written in the aftermath of her fathers death and as she recovered from major surgery provides a context for us to understand how a real artist works.
- Chris Peken , Altmedia
Debonair and smooth in its musical etching, Liz Martin's Dance a Little, Live a Little meanders ('So Long'), sways ('Be What May'), gets all Belle and Sebastian meets Fairport Convention ('Dance a Little, Live a Little') then strikes a sci-fi jazz interlude only three songs in. Oh and then there's Martin floating semi-naked in a swimming pool on the front cover of the record. Erect right nipple exposed, pearl necklace buoyant like a jellyfish jewel with Martin's sequined dress spashed across her torso... it's a mesmerising shot.
Amitious indeed and it works as a piece of contentious art alongside the sonic catwalk with Martin crooning Parisian noir style with the backing of measured strings, shuffle drum and Dave Symes' bass working over sultry terrain to soundtrack the saucy image. Along with Hamish Stuart (drums), Stu Hunter (keys), Veren Grigorov (violin/viola), Dirk Kruithof (guitar), Mr Percival (guest focals on Bowie's 'Sound and Vision') and a score of an ABC Radio National album of the week, Martin has reached a new level on her third record. Melancholy amalgamates with angst, the swoon with the swank, amid the resonance of artists the likes of Antony Hegarty, Joan Wasser and Rickie Lee Jones whose sounds emanate right the way through "Dance a Little, Live a Little".
Narratives tap in and out and collapse in a heap with wilful lyrics and a headstrong approach washing through Martin's delivery. Jazz and pop, breathy and brilliant. From Shirley Bassey inspired 'Night Time' to the epic orchestral score that is 'Darling', this record will move you in ways you really want to be moved.
- Nick Argyrio, Rhythms Magazine
The louche drawl of a superb horn section plays tag with Liz Martin’s delicate vocals on the new album Dance a Little, Live a Little. Jazz singer, indie chanteuse — Liz Martin isn’t to be categorised that easily. Undeniably nourished by jazz — but far from anything esoteric and improvised, Martin’s sound is a playful embrace of the savvier side of pop with a massage from the cool hands of dashing crooners. Combining her sultry growl and a tight rhythm section, she is what happens when a Brubeck-influenced, Blue Note aficionado inhabits a grrrl balladeer who survived the grungiest excesses of the 1990s. Consequently, Martin’s music is profoundly sexy.
In the case of Dance a Little, Live a Little, you must judge the album by its cover. In perhaps an offhand improvement on Janet Jackson’s infamous oops moment, Liz Martin’s submerged nude figure is utterly stylish. Clad in a dissolving white dress against a turquoise backdrop, this image of Aphrodite-like rebirth promises what the music delivers: fragile beauty emerging with a refreshed style.
Think Leonard Cohen but low on bombast, and Tom Waits but low on gravel. With this new album, Liz Martin’s songs are gentle but assured, and any lyrical melancholy is never shot through with self-loathing. It’s a relief that her tortured and torch-lit indie days are over; not that there wasn’t a hint of her curious mix of strength and delicacy in her earlier and noticeably darker material. When I heard Liz Martin in a mid-noughties performance at a local café turned low-lit troubadour club, teaming up with fellow indie songbird Inga Liljestrom, she was captivating. I harbour memories of breathtaking sadness and troubling darkness that are happily absent from Dance a Little, Live a Little.
The bouncy staccato of album opener “So Long” initiates the listener into the tone of personal liberation that infuses the album. Martin’s vocals are suggestive of a deceptively relaxed timbre — she lands somewhere under the note, then beside it, caressing the note and sliding from it into the next clipped lyric. The jaunty piano of “So Long” returns in the following track, “Be What May.” The song is compact, witty, rhythmically delicious and a stylish dialogue of horns and voice.
The joy of these arrangements erupts in the title track. “Dance a Little, Live a Little” skips, wriggles and grabs you by the hand. Here the sensual voice again takes hold: You’ll want to hear just a little bit more of this very “little” song — a modest song for one that is instantaneously exciting.
“Meanwhile” is a bemusing “entr’acte” evoking a late ’60s James Bond theme. For those Liz Martin fans attracted to the singer’s moody good looks as well as her music, the steamy sound of high heels (Liz’s own or perhaps an elusive paramour’s) is the star of this bite-sized noir soundtrack.
The thrills continue with a strange but cunningly wrought jazzy reworking of Bowie’s “Sound and Vision.” Liz Martin’s cover is a perfect translation.
“Olives and Wine” builds on the sensuality theme inspired by the spontaneous swim of the album packaging. This song signals the moment when the lights are dimmed and the bandleader calls up a slow dance. Romantic but not sappy, it’s a wedding dance for the thinking woman.
“Wish” and “Long Bad Day” echo the earlier brass cahoots on “Be What May.” “Wish” is a perfect song of desire. It’s confessional but smart, with rhythms stunningly reminiscent of Tom Waits’ Alice album. Strings, double bass and snare paint a canvas of cool moodiness that undercuts the yearning of the song. There’s no room for gloom, as “Long Bad Day” attests. Suave piano and horns make an almost comedic meal of the minor keys, syncopating and finger-snapping their way through another perfect little song.
“Night Time” follows the gentle and piano-showcase of “Oh” as a memorable and definitive track. Infused with the charcoal hues from a brooding electric guitar, Liz Martin’s breathy lyrics are holding a candle for one that got away. Despite the yearning, the beautiful, dark melody suggests controlled passion.
Resolution rewards listeners in the final two tracks. “Darling” is a song that’s wrapped in the warmth of another Dave Symes string arrangement, with Stu Hunter’s understated piano a match for Liz Martin’s vocal subtlety. The farewell notes of this final-sounding song are conclusively charming, but for a sneaky closing track, “Early Morning Skies.” With a dainty, homespun sound which chirps sweetly along with Dan Waples’ clarinet, it’s another optimistic moment in an upbeat album.
Without surrendering her serious side, Liz Martin has delivered a sparkling album. Familiar sounds of traditional jazz quartets are enchanted with sweet strings and growling guitar. While obviously a collaborative musical effort, the personal drive to bring it all together and take creative risks belongs to Liz Martin. A local hero of Sydney’s inner-city bohemian set, Martin’s music is gradually gaining wider audiences in Australia, with airplay and coverage across national media. With her delectable melodies, and a voice that ditches full-throttle ego for laid-back swagger, Liz Martin will undoubtedly turn heads and win fans. After hearing Dance a Little, Live a Little I want to dance and live a whole lot more, sensing that more great music is surely not too far off in her brilliant career.
- Miri Jassy, La Folia
I first saw Liz Martin play back in the folk infused days of the mid 90s, when every pub seemed to have an acoustic jam session and Sydney was awash with the sound of Jeff Buckley. It was clear, even then, that Liz had a certain quality which lifted her above the stylists and try hards. A pure beauty in performance that eschewed the demonstrative and instead, resonated at a higher level. She had the wise soul of a poet. A dyed in the wool Cohenesque stoicism.
I have watched her career since then, as she steadily climbed the serried steps of Sydney’s gigging hierarchy, till, with the release of her first albums (Beneath the Stars, Night Music) and collaboration with Paul Mac, she finally began to receive the attention she has always merited. During this time she flirted with a variety of idioms, creating compelling music from a melange of electronica, folk and jazz. It was charismatic, likeable stuff, that cemented her place in the Sydney indie scene. Yet, there was a sense that she was still in the process of finding her voice.
This album (Dance a Little, Live a Little) changes all that.
In a sweet spot between, jazz, pop and folk she has found a groove that perfectly conveys the subtle, wistful, longing of a poet’s muse with a suite of songs that range from heart achingly tender ballads to playful instrumentals. It is a remarkable collection of work, stylistically cohesive, yet varied and rich, stamped with the authority of some of Sydney’s finest musicians. But at the centre of everything is a voice that is beauty itself.
Liz does not sing with the “heart on her sleeve” bluster of your regular Saturday night chanteuse, but rather, lures you with the formal, restrained tone of a female Cohen doing Rickie Lee Jones. Here the lyric is given as it was written, thoughtful, in reflection, poignant.
It cuts no less for that. A song like Oh! stays with you, wrapped around your heart like a mist. Even the swinging So Long with its jaunty, springing rhythm has a shadow. These are songs that burn with a cool flame.
When Liz decided to make this record, she eschewed long nights in with the mouse and keyboard, instead opting to share the responsibility of production with one of Sydney’s most talented musicians and finest bass players, Dave Symes. They gathered a band studded with local luminaries that included Dave Symes (bass), Hamish Stuart (drums), Stu Hunter (keys), Veren Grigorov (violin/viola), Dirk Kruithof (guitar) and Mr Percival (guest vocals on an excellent cover of Bowie’s Sound and Vision).
"The collection of musicians on the album are people that either Dave Symes or I have played with over the years. They are awesome and just right. Everyone that played was true to the nature of each song and found their own way into each song."
One of the special pleasures of the record is the interplay between bass, drums and piano. It has a kind of early Bowie intensity to it, with a heady, intense groove that insists on repeated listens. Indeed all of the record has that special lustre that comes from real performances rather than the cutting and pasting of formula pop. Its almost nostalgic.
But it is always the voice that we come back to. Liz has a special talent as a singer. Her communication is nuanced, every colour shadowed, textured, intense. Hers is a singular talent and this is an album that marks a watershed in her career. A mature, reflective, accomplished record that offers something new on every listen. Enjoy.
- Ian Shadwell, likeithateit.net
With a sublimely languid, limpidly evocative voice, Liz Martin delivers her aching tunes in a quietly unhurried mood, her clear-eyed images of love and loss just this side of devastating, accompanied by strumming electric guitar, violin and the occasional eerie undercurrent of musical saw. The opening track, Night Time, evokes something of a Weimer Germany '30s cabaret feel, and Give Me Back My Tears has a certain bluegrass jauntiness despite the title. The stripped back revisiting of album tracks (Cold as Hell and Walking) cuts deeper into the emotion than ever.
- Michael Smith, Drum Media
A delightful surprise awaits the listener on this self-assured debut from Sydneysider Liz Martin. Leaping forth from the myriad of acoustic singer-songwriters is this distinctive voice of cultivated electro pop, electronica and blues for the discerning palate. Martin already owns a gold record courtesy of her work with Paul Mac; and it's the bald honesty of her voice that she expresses with the tone of one much younger that sits her outside the many. Don't let the unassuming packaging fool you, this is more than worth your time.
- Chris Peken, City Hub