Martin Saint is a Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist based in Montreal. Active in the local music scene for many years, he’s also currently the lead singer and rhythm guitarist of Montreal-based alt-rock band The Ember Glows. He’s released a fair amount of music as a solo artist, including a spoken word EP Fly Tales in 2019, an album One Word Away in January 2020, an EP Last New Year’s Eve in March 2021, and this past November, he dropped an excellent cover of Leonard Cohen’s song “The Law”, which I featured in a Fresh New Tracks post. Now he returns with his second album Radio Murmurs, featuring eight exquisite tracks, most of which deal with various aspects of love, relationships lost, and emotional well-being.
About the album, Martin explains “This new collection emerged during the pandemic with the specific intention to produce a full-length album. The goal was to achieve a result similar to David Bowie’s ‘Low’ album, with half the record featuring more accessible pop hooks and the other half more atmospheric and texture-driven. As always, lyrics aim at standing for themselves outside the music, as a major cornerstone of the ensemble. Glimmers of Nick Cave, Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Simple Minds and The Doors infuse most of my work and ‘Radio Murmurs’ displays these references a little at a time.”
For the album’s recording, Martin enlisted the help of several musicians and vocalists, including fellow The Ember Glows members Richard Bunze, Kevin Hills and Dan Stefik on a couple tracks, Guillaume Thoreau, who played Mini-Moog on “Scenes from Cars”, singer-songwriter Ursa Minor for the duet on “I’ll Be Your Stranger”, Delphine Dupont for backing vocals on “No Hard Feelings” and Sarah Emilie for backing vocals on “Last Lights” and “No Hard Feelings”.
There’s a lot to like on Radio Murmurs, particularly the darkly beautiful and mysterious aura of many tracks, lush arrangements, outstanding instrumentation – especially the gorgeous chiming and jangly guitar work, and Martin’s poetic lyrics. The album kicks off with the splendid “In the Universe“, a stunning song highlighted by the aforementioned chiming guitars and affecting piano keys. Martin’s smooth vocals, which remind me at times of the late, great Scott Walker, are pleasing as he plaintively asks a friend for their love, comfort and support: “Will you sit by my side, and be the last face I see. Will you run and hide when the gods take back what they’ve lent me?“
On the lovely duet “I’ll Be Your Stranger” with Ursa Minor, Martin sings of the loneliness and ennui he (and many of us) experienced during the Covid lockdowns, hungry for love, empathy and companionship: “Exiled at home in digital solitude. Time is crawling and I swing from mood to mood. When all that I want is to hide naked in bed./ I’ll be your kind stranger. Passing by for a minute or more. The one you won’t need a mask for.” Ursa Minor’s ethereal vocals both contrast and complement Martin’s quite nicely.
“Last Lights” is an outlier, thematically, with lyrics addressing historic socio-political strife and the rise and fall of authoritarian regimes: “Invaders’ songs fill the old streets. Join The Party, march to the beat. Smokestack steel fuels the strife. Sad Slavic eyes bound for exile. And nations rise from relic. Nations fall brick by brick.” Musically, the track has a mesmerizing synth-driven groove reminiscent of some of Depeche Mode’s songs. I’m not sure what “Wet Road” is about, though its lyrics speak of driving in the rain at night with a loved one, with mention of the album’s title: “Exits fly by, mile by mile. The engine purrs. Over our silence, the radio murmurs. In the soft rain, the velvet night is rocking me. In her foggy bliss she cradles me.” I really like its mysterious vibe, highlighted by sharp, eerie synths, sparkling piano keys and deep bassline.
“The Double” is a great tune, with an arresting toe-tapping beat accompanied by a throbbing bass groove, otherworldly synths and delicate jangly guitars that are simply fantastic. Martin’s doesn’t have a strong voice, but his vocals sound particularly good on this track. “No Hard Feelings” is one of my favorite tracks on the album, with an opening strummed guitar lick that immediately reminded me of Oasis’ great classic “Wonderwall”. The lyrics speak of a couple in the final throes of a relationship that’s over, saying their last goodbyes to one another without acrimony: “Happy rest of the road is what you meant to say, I saw it in your smile. No binding words to relive old days, this is our last mile. We can try but we all know it’s not the same. But no hard feelings.”
“Wide Open” has a strong Simple Minds feel, as the song has shades of their song “Alive & Kicking”. Kevin Hills provides some great fuzzy bass on this track The lyrics are directed toward someone who’s fallen far down and letting them know that, despite their self-destructive behavior, your door is still open if they need a friend: “How low have you now sunken, friendless, broke and broken? What are you now reaping that you have long been sowing? Where have we watched you take your long road to perdition? When did your last mistake become your next decision?“
Martin saves the best for last, as the stylish and sultry “Scenes from Cars” is my favorite track on the album. The song’s captivating music is courtesy of a fake pedal-steel sound by Dan Stefik’s guitar and Mini-Moog synths played by Guillaume Thoreau. Martin’s smooth croons have an ethereal sultry feel as he touches on various romantic and non-romantic scenarios between people while driving in cars: “Sunday morning drive. A family of five or a weekend dad and child. Backseat in the dark. A teenage hand pushed hard. Love is still a bridge too far. Predator and prey roam lost highways or city streets today./ Lovers in a car. A loner in a car.” It’s a superb ending to a very fine album.
Connect with Martin: Facebook / Instagram
Find his music on Bandcamp / Spotify / Apple Music