by Ted Zep
Local pop singer-songwriter Natalie Grace Martin has returned. But this time, she’s brought a friend. Meet DreamStates. The musical duo, composed of Martin (producer, lyricist, lead vocalist) and Madeline Eckhart (composer, lyricist, vocalist), has crafted an album comprised of 12 honest and impassioned electro-pop songs.
Both transgender, the pair met at a pub karaoke night. However, this was before Martin had gone public with her gender identity. The two became fast friends.
In December of last year, they decided to begin working together on some material. By the end of January, they had completed 12 songs.
The group constructed their self-titled debut using the FL Studio 10 digital audio workstation. All instrumentation on the album was handcrafted.
Sonically, the album hovers near the mid-tempo range. Thematically, however, it’s a bit more manic. Using Bruno Mars and Daft Punk as a general jumping-off point, DreamStates dives head first into unpacking their relatively complicated feelings in regards to relationships, depression and their hunger for attention.
The album opens with the fun and innocuous “Go to Work!” which is a nod to the refreshingly less-produced hip hop of the mid-80s. Full of benign braggadocio, it’s a light and unexpected way to introduce listeners into DreamStates’ world.
Track 5, “Colorblind,” sees Martin use the titular visual condition as a metaphor for approaching love.
Track 6, “Limbo,” is fleshed out and polished. It deals with feeling undefined and daunted. There is an ache to it. It is the true beginning of the album.
Track 7, “Minor Keys,” is notable in that Martin covers, well, herself. The song was revisited by the suggestion of Eckhart who presciently theorized that it would be an interesting experiment. Good call. It’s a great song and certainly deserves real estate on the record.
Maddie Eckhart takes center stage for “Never Gets Better.” Providing the lyrics, chords and melody, Eckhart addresses the malaise and sense of futility often associated with deep frustration or depression. In some ways, it feels like it should be performed “bigger,” but the hook is haunting and the overall song feels honest.
“Finally Leaving” is an energetic and motivating look at mustering the courage to walk out on an unremarkable or toxic relationship.
The album closes with “Normal.” Arguably a skosh on the nose, the subject matter of the song is as “2018” as the band is itself. Things are by no means perfect, that is not in doubt. But, there is now movement and momentum toward new, wider, more loving standards of what exactly constitutes “normal.”
Though it seems far in the distance, the day will come when people won’t have to feel guilty or embarrassed about, well, damn near everything. And that right there is a beautiful thing that this album celebrates.
DreamStates is currently working on a follow-up to their self-titled debut and hope to have a third release out by the end of the year.
DreamStates can be found on Facebook (@DreamStatesMusicBand) and at DreamStatesBand.Bandcamp.com.
(featured image by Sahar Fadaian, all other photos courtesy of Natalie Grace Martin)