Published Mar 04, 2015Christina Martin may reside on the East Coast, but you'll swear she was raised on E Street after listening to her new LP. That's because It'll Be Alright, the Halifax based songstress' fourth album, is awash in the same kind of driving guitar riffs, plush production and earnest vocals that Springsteen employed during his mid '80s commercial peak — It'll Be Alright is as much a showcase for Martin's versatile band as it is for her retro songwriting. It's a startling contrast from the earthy acoustic vibe of Martin's last album, Sleeping With a Stranger, but this slicker approach suits her well on the new album's title track, which features rattling drum lines and revving fretwork, as Martin belts out her lyrics in a delivery style akin to that of early Melissa Etheridge. The bridge finds her singing "convince me it'll be alright," but it sounds less like a desperate plea and more like a Boss's command.
Unfortunately, that 80s earnestness quickly sputters and stalls on the next track, "Reaching Out," which is overly earnest in tone and sports vague, trite lyrics. "Take Me Back In a Dream," is even worse, starting with a fluttering synth line as Martin reminisces about how she "cried" from heartache and "held it all inside." She may be attempting to write a straightforward, power-ballad here, but it amounts to little more than a stale Cyndi Lauper imitation. Martin sounds far better when she drops pop divadom and embraces her more rock influences, especially on the midway tune "Puppet Museum," which features a fiery guitar solo and Martin's raspy verses and hoarsely shouted chorus.
By the closing track, "Somewhere With You," Martin has truly found her footing and deftly balances all of the albums' earlier extremes. The song's instrumentation, while upbeat and danceable, is underpinned by shaggy guitar work that keeps the tune from becoming tidy and predictable. You may brace yourself for cheesiness as Martin veers into lyrical merry-go-round metaphors on the second verse, but she sings about those mechanical horses with a sharp enough cry to deflate any sentimentality. Such surprising contradictions make Martin's latest an engaging listen, and help her make the '80s sound fresh again. (Come Undone)