Having written for a plethora of renowned artists (including Irish pop musician Ronan Keating and German superstar Lena), Norma Jean Martine’s credentials immediately set a high standard for her debut album, Only In My Mind. But not to worry, as her talents effortlessly shine through, blending together blues-inspired guitar pop with strong vocals, occasional folk vibes and some highly emotive lyrical work. Straying somewhat from typical heartbreak-heavy pop themes, Only In My Mind transports listeners through a captivating journey of emotion, focusing primarily on the ‘many different seasons of love’.
Opening track ‘Sons and Daughters’ begins with an atmospheric guitar riff, gradually building up alongside a steady drum beat that expands throughout the song, while Martine’s smooth vocals play a primary role in the track’s anthemic nature. Eventually the song fades out with a subtle echo before the emotional ‘I Want You to Want Me’ takes over with a gentle piano sound that builds into an impressive indie pop song about love, loneliness and fate. The simplicity of the track highlights Martine’s husky and powerful vocals, marking one of the best tracks on the album.
Taking on a vocal style reminiscent of Stevie Nicks, the record slows with the beautifully harmonic ‘I Will Never Love Again’. Managing to neatly side-step the tear-jerking ‘pity party’ themes that the vast majority of love songs seem to conform to, this track takes the form of an emotional, yet uplifting melodic effort where Martine’s musical talents really come into play. The combination of acoustic guitars, powerful vocals and melancholic lyrics create an alternative approach to portraying heartbreak, effortlessly marking the highlight of the record. Bringing us out of that melancholic atmosphere, title track ‘Only In My Mind’ soon picks the pace up again, with a folky acoustic number reminiscent of early Nina Nesbitt.
‘Animals’ marked Martine’s debut single release last year. The track takes on a heavier rock sound than the rest of the album, breaking up the primary sound a little and portraying the singer-songwriter’s musical diversity, while ‘Still In Love With You’ features a subtle, underlying rockabilly tone. ‘No More Alone’ transitions back into a powerful and haunting piano-vocal combination in which Martine’s extraordinary vocal range is depicted. There are elements of this record that appear to cling just a little too tightly to a number of artists currently occupying the charts (for example, ‘No Gold’s strong resemblance to Adele’s ‘Send My Love’), but influences like this are to be expected for a young musician’s debut.
‘Angel On My Shoulders’ kicks things up a notch, bringing the record back to an indie pop vibe in the form of a youth-fuelled anthem. The song features various themes of positivity, enhanced by electronic guitar riffs and an infectious chorus that boasts the lyrics ‘I believe in ever-lasting love’. Following this, ‘Butterfly’s Dream’ revitalises the album even more with a soulful, yet cheerful atmosphere, before album closer ‘I’m Still Here’ takes the form of a 1920’s-esque romantic effort.
As a whole, Only In My Mind is a remarkable release that perfectly showcases Martine’s talents, and provides a strong indication that her next release will be just as impressive.
Only In My Mind is out September 9th via Virgin EMI Records.