Release Date: August 19, 2013
THREE is part of a set of 5 EPs that Charlotte is in the process of releasing. Previous Reviews: ONE and TWO
I’ve talked at length about Charlotte’s new music and a bit about how she got there, so I won’t rehash all of that here. I was absolutely floored by her TWO EP earlier this year and became and instant fan. That record is pretty serious art/alt rock and (having not heard ONE) it set something of an expectation for me. So, when she released the track “I Can Dream” (from THREE) about a month ago, I was immediately taken aback. This was not what I was expecting.
Once I got my hands on the entire record, I remained surprised – not hearing what I would have expected as a followup to TWO. But by the time I finished my first listen-through it had become an immediate favorite and I’m still playing it sometimes multiple times each day.
With an EP I would typically offer up a track-by-track evaluation, but this record renders that approach obsolete. Tracks bleed from one into another and 26 minutes feels like 10 as you lose yourself in a holistic, engulfing experience. The album artwork absolutely captures the fluid aesthetic of the entire record as seen in the video for the track “Water Tower“.
While I wouldn’t consider it the strongest track on the album, “Water Tower” is a great indicator for the record. It showcases everything that makes Charlotte (and her band’s) music what it is. Restraint, subtlety, power, creativity. It’s all there on this track.
In my opinion, the strongest track on the record is “Magician’s Assistant“. Placed squarely in the center of the record, this song sort-of sneaks up on you with another subtle beginning giving way to impassioned conclusion. The composition reminds me a lot of the modular songwriting that Brian Wilson employed on his magnum opus SMiLE. Seemingly dichotomous choruses, verses and instrumental portions meld together brilliantly and take the listener on an unbelievable journey.
One of the tricks with producing such tonally rich music is finding a way to bring the same soul to a variety of performances of that music. While I can’t wait to see some live full-band performance video, for now I’m making due with a recent in-studio acoustic performance of “Like a Fool” from BBC2 radio (@ 3:50 below). Such a performance only goes to disprove any naysayers about what this artist has become. Does she demand some level of attention based on name alone? Certainly. But this new career (as discussed in the interview below) is a team effort built on solid songwriting, fantastic musicianship, and incomparable vocals. That much should be undeniable.
One of the only drawbacks of this album is that it differs so much from even Charlotte’s other recent work. While different sounds are going to connect with a variety of audiences differently, I wouldn’t be surprised if this one has less of an immediate impact as either ONE or TWO. But, then, isn’t that true of so many great records? After all, it took 40 years for Wilson to get SMiLE made.