Selina Martin
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Selina Martin

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | INDIE | AFM

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | INDIE | AFM
Band Pop Singer/Songwriter


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This band has not uploaded any videos



""..without question the most underrated Canadian album of the year""

Selina Martin – Disaster Fantasies (independent). Selina Martin has always oozed charisma, but here the Toronto performer has a set of songs that matches her grand ambitions and her love of glam, prog, punk, folk, balladry—and Rush. Every song sounds like a smash hit, making this without question the most underrated Canadian album of the year (surely not a prize she was shooting for). - Michael Barclay - The Record

"The little wink to the Talking Heads on "Rape During Wartime" is a masterful dissimulation of the political into the party, another of her skill sets. - Eric Hill, Exclaim"

Selina Martin
Disaster Fantasies
By Eric Hill

The flurry of pop punches that introduces Miss Martin's third album jellies up the knees, so when the suggestion to "Breathe In" comes around on track five, that's basically all you can do. Her "Can rock" guitar attack is backed by a fine storytelling ear for detail and savvy avoidance of the traffic merge that strands other female artists in the carpool lane. Time spent working with Dave Bidini and Martin Tielli on the Five Hole Band's Tales of Hockey Erotica transfers over in the form of brave studio experimentation. Vocal layering, singing saws and wine glasses, plus guest kalimba by Laura Barrett, take many tracks into a nice twilight zone of sound. The little wink to the Talking Heads on "Rape During Wartime" is a masterful dissimulation of the political into the party, another of her skill sets. And for pure Canadiana, what could be cooler than a fragile, jazzy take on "Spirit of the Radio"? Insert boho finger-snapping sounds here. (Independent) - Exclaim!

""The Rush cover is killer good being quite minimalist, heartfelt, and beautifully adapted. ... a mere portal into a wonderful twelve song album of quality material from what will surely go down as one of this years must-hear indie releases." – Mike Bax, "

Self released

By Mike Bax

While I do think it’s somewhat shitty to say my eyes were ‘opened’ to Disaster Fantasies because of a cover version – it’s the truth. I had ripped this album onto my computer, and placed the files into a folder I keep on my computer filled with ‘review’ music (a literal wasteland of music that comes through my mailbox looking for some kind of verbiage to be put against it). Selina’s cover of ‘The Spirit Of Radio’ came up on said play-list, and the hair on the back of my neck immediately shot up.

Suffice to say – the Rush cover is killer good being quite minimalist, heartfelt, and beautifully adapted. And it’s a mere portal into a wonderful twelve song album of quality material from what will surely go down as one of this years must-hear indie releases. Martin keeps some pretty choice company… having contributed to Rheostatics, Bob Wiseman, Justin Rutledge and N.Q. Arbuckle material in the past.

Don’t be duped by Selina’s lovely voice – much of her material is quite dark, and the mixture of her sugary vocals over top of some of the darker material on Disaster Fantasies makes for some of the more magical moments on the album.

‘I Know Dullness’, ‘Rape During Wartime’ and ‘Public Safety Management’ are must-hear songs on Disaster Fantasies. Lyrically sharp, and lovingly sung, they beg to be played again immediately after you first sample them.

Disaster Fantasies carries no label markings whatsoever, and appears to be completely done on the indie. Make sure you sniff this one out – it’s sure to appeal to fans of the Rheostatics and Aimee Mann. - Lithium

"Martin has been on the periphery of CanRock royalty for years now, contributing to other projects (Rheostatics, Bob Wiseman) and having her praises sung by others (Gord Downie)— Disaster Fantasies deserves a place with the best work by any of those artist"

Selina Martin

Disaster Fantasies (independent)

A cover version can either be a cheap attempt to get attention or reveal plenty about an artist’s intent. In the case of Toronto’s Selina Martin, her acoustic interpretation of The Spirit of Radio by Rush manages to be both. One the one hand, it’s an easy gimmick to get CBC Radio play, by tackling a hard-rock CanCon classic and giving it a coffeehouse-friendly makeover. On the other, because it’s actually one of the weaker tracks on her stellar third album, it speaks volumes about Martin’s own artistry and what she shares with the intent of Neil Peart’s lyrics: the belief in the “freedom of music” free from “glittering prizes and endless compromises.”

Disaster Fantasies displays Martin as an ambitious singer/songwriter with a knockout voice and the ability to corral her artier tendencies into a commanding power pop band; it’s an album that works on an entirely visceral level, with no shortage of catchy earworms and bold rock guitars. And yet there are tonnes of tiny tasty bits in every corner, whether it’s Rheostatics guitarist Martin Tielli noodling noisily underneath I Know Dullness, Laura Barrett’s kalimba on News of Her Death, or Martin herself playing wine glasses or tapping the loose end of a plugged-in patch cord as part of a rhythm track. Producer Chris Stringer (the D’Urbervilles, Timber Timbre) helps Martin paint vivid sonic portraits and brings the entire project into clear focus, amplifying the rock elements and leaving space for acoustic intimacy (Throw Me in the Water).

Martin has been on the periphery of CanRock royalty for years now, contributing to other projects (Rheostatics, Bob Wiseman) and having her praises sung by others (Gord Downie) — Disaster Fantasies deserves a place with the best work by any of those artists.

- Michael Barclay - The Record

"Toronto song magician Selina Martin..."

The Hottest Day
Selina Martin, from Disaster Fantasies (independent, streaming here)

No matter what your December soul may whisper at the sight of this infectious single’s title, Toronto song magician Selina Martin’s theme is not a warm beach but the scorching you can get from a bad relationship with an emotional trickster. The tune’s rollicking energy may be the salve that cools a wound that takes almost forever to heal. - The Globe and Mail

"Selina Martin achieved the rare feat of making a Rush song ("Spirit of Radio") sexy with her dynamism" - Exclaim!

"She’s definitely a lifetime resident in the tower of song…. Breathe In, .. one of the best Canadian songs of the year - The Globe & Mail"

Selina Martin is doing two performances on Wednesday, one in the morning behind closed doors for a select group of medical people, and the other at night in a Toronto club before fans of her sneaky-beautiful songs.

The medical thing is a kind of one-person play, in which she takes the role of someone with a health condition so that the professionals can practise dealing with it. It may not be so far removed from what she does as a songwriter, when you consider that a song is often a record of some wound or surgery on the spirit, whether real or imagined.
Selina Martin performs "Ordinary Love"

But Martin’s medical plays (all scripted for her by the University of Toronto’s Standardized Patient Program) are something she occasionally does for a living, while her songs are what she does to live.

She’s definitely a lifetime resident in the tower of song, to borrow Leonard Cohen’s phrase: She’s been making and singing songs since she could clear her throat and hold a guitar. Disaster Fantasies, her latest solo record, is fun to hear, and has at least one number that really should be on the radio (Always on My Mind, a catchy tune with a real emotional tug), but the songs also feel like the heavy fruit of experience. Plenty of real-life drama, personal and imagined, has gone into this music.

“A lot of it came together during the elongated breakup of a 10-year relationship,” she said. “I didn’t write a record about that, in any way, but some stuff came out that was about it. Like Breathe In, which I wrote and only afterwards realized was about that whole scene.”

The lyrics of this song, the most beautiful on the whole album (and maybe one of the best Canadian songs of the year), spiral through a wilderness of images that feel intimate and alienated at once, before reaching a chorus that’s like an embrace of the air itself. “If you need a spine, I don’t use mine, it’s made of homemade wine, it’s see-through and it bends with time and pressure,” Martin sings in the verse, her strong clear voice hardening a little on that word “pressure.” Maybe it’s the same pressure that restricts that chorus to just two neighbouring notes, sung in a soaring voice while the chords underneath create the melody.

Another song, Rape During Wartime, wasn’t about a personal experience but a military-political phenomenon that has felt personal to her for a long time. And for a long time, she couldn’t write about it.

“It was just way too heavy,” she said. “Nobody wants to hear a song about that” – though of course, she did. She found the way to a solution through Life During Wartime, the Talking Heads’ dance song about brutality. She emulated that song’s two-chord harmonic design and borrowed one line from the lyrics (“this ain’t no party”), as she addressed the rape experience from the viewpoint of the man with the gun.

Another song, No Form, takes off from a sonnet by Leonard Cohen, in which he contemplates the blank page waiting for him to fill it up with meaning. “His thing was about talking to his non-existent sonnet, and mine is more turned in on myself,” she said.

The disc has one cover tune: Rush’s The Spirit of Radio, which Martin will perform this weekend during a Juno anniversary show at Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern devoted to Juno-winning music from the 1970s.

“I was never a huge Rush fan, but when I was a preteen growing up in Kanata [a suburb of Ottawa], I remember having some kind of epiphany while they were playing that song at the roller disco, with the lights flashing and the music really loud. And later, I’d be in these campfire sing-along situations, and someone would say, “Selina, why don’t you sing something?” I just hated that, and it was always uncomfortable, so the way to kill the campfire sing-along was to do The Spirit of Radio, because nobody could play along!”

For her show tonight, Martin has “the best-ever version” of her five-piece band, which will take the stage after a set by the BidiniBand, run by her frequent colleague and ex-Rheostatic Dave Bidini, whose musical play Five Hole: Tales of Hockey Erotica toured the country a couple of times with Martin at the microphone. She can’t say much about another stage project in the works with Vancouver actor Lisa Ryder-Cohen, though there’s no doubt it will be far removed from the strict formalism of her performances as a Standardized Patient, from which she has gained one valuable experience.

“It teaches you stamina,” she said. “You have to be focused and present for a really long time.” Sort of like when you’re creating a new song, pulling it together from the tumbling chaos of life and imagination.

Selina Martin plays the Piston (937 Bloor St. W.) in Toronto on Wednesday night.
- The Globe and Mail

"4 Stars (highest rating). Her new album is full of sneaky wisdom and good tunes that refuse to know where to draw the line. – The Globe and Mail"

* * * * (highest rating) Selina Martin has the voice of a thrift-shop angel and the eye of an eagle circling over its prey. She's too decent to lie, and too cruel to look away as you react to what she has to say about your shabby subterfuges, which may also be hers. Her new album is full of sneaky wisdom and good tunes that refuse to know where to draw the line. Her arrangements (made and performed with friends from the Rheostatics end of the indie scene) have a way of billowing into grand or parodic tributes to whatever folly she happens to be discussing. Her band is her Greek chorus, commenting on the action with a leer or a tear. Ideally, these songs would be performed in the seedy, comfortable cabaret whose existence they imply. But that cabaret may not exist, so you'd better just buy the record. – Robert Everett-Green
- Globe & Mail

"4 Stars. Martin revels in the unexpected on her tough, tender, and frequently astounding sophomore effort."

"Ordinary love is not for me," muses the alternately sweet- and sharp-tongued Selina Martin right out of the gates. A moment later, she calmly takes a breath, sharpens her claws, and strikes quick, summarily slicing and dicing some feckless chump whose "fairy tale" antics are driven by the "politics from in your pants." Fortunately, "ordinary" music is not for her either. A former U of T drama
grad, Martin revels in the unexpected on her tough, tender and frequently astounding sophomore effort Life Drawing Without Instruction-unflinching Brechtian pop theatrics for heartsick spirits and fiery, fed-up souls alike. Piecing together shards of placid folk, paint-peeling punk, and skittish cabaret, Martin writes strident songs to make the guilty flinch, the forlorn swoon, and the defiant swell with courage. – Steve Baylin
- Ottawa Xpress

"Any fan of Jane Siberry or the Rheostatics will instantly be captivated by Martin’s impressionistic approach but her songs stand on their own. … Thrilling."

The Queen Street spirit remains alive and well in this second full-length from Toronto native Martin. It’s been six years since her previous release, and the hard work in between is apparent in the album’s dense and dramatic construction, ranging from hushed acoustic musings to anthemic symphonic passages. Any fan of Jane Siberry or the Rheostatics will instantly be captivated by Martin’s impressionistic approach but her songs stand on their own, mostly through the inherent innocence of her lyrics and vocals. There’s a wide-eyed sense of playfulness on “20 Miles” and “For Love” that Hawksley Workman would do well to take note of, and Martin displays some hefty rock chops on “The Lost Man.” Martin is returning to some mighty ambitious CanRock soil, but the results are never less than thrilling. – Jason Schneider

"4 Stars. Life Drawing Without Instruction is a compelling collection, showcasing Martin’s musicianship, vocal talent and songwriting. From supple, lilting songs to swaggering anthems Martin shows off her musical range and versatility."

* * * * It’s been seven long years since Selina Martin and the Vertical Brothers released their saucy melodic debut disc Space Woman but the wait was worth it. Life Drawing Without Instruction is a compelling collection, showcasing Martin’s musicianship, vocal talent and songwriting. Collaborating with Martin Tielli, fellow Rheostatic musician and producer Michael Philip Wojewoda and former Rheos drummer Dave Clark, this disc rings with promise. From supple, lilting Jane Siberry-esque songs like “Saskatchewan” and “Ordinary Love” to swaggering anthems like “Lost Man,” “Next Big Thing,” and “Talk to Me,” (the latter includes some excellent whistling and a full chorus of lads doing the wa-ooohs), Martin shows off her musical range and versatility. Friends and co-horts fill the sound to brimming with strings, horns, accordions and slide guitar to which Martin adds her own guitar prowess and the odd musical saw and tray of wine glasses. The unmistakable rich and layered Rheostatics’ sound underpins this disc, making each track different from the last. Clark’s accomplished drumming delights the backbone but never overpowers. The disc concludes with a haunting beauty called “The Train Ride,” and then ends with a brief studio clip of Martin: “That’s all I got.” Well, it’s a lot. – Lisa Gregoire
- Vue Magazine

"She Plays Accordion, Too. It’s not often that one has the songwriting ability and the performing talent to accompany the voice, but from the bits I’ve heard, I suspect Martin is in possession of the appropriate faculties."

Martin’s from T.O…. has the most ginormous voice and oodles of stage presence and plays many many many instruments and writes clever, oft-biting, but always catchy, songs about people’s strength, be it more or less. And yes; she leaves you as out of breath as that last sentence. – Josephine Ochej
- Terminal City

"Space Woman is so expressive, it plays like a contemporary socio-political cabaret."

Selina Martin & the Vertical Brothers
Space Woman
Selina Martin’s debut CD is an eclectic mix of rock, pop, jazz and old time shuffles all given life through Martin’s stunning vocals. Space Woman is so expressive, it plays like a contemporary socio-political cabaret. Both lyrically and musically, each song oozes with theatrics demonstrating how Martin’s songwriting ability is closely intertwined with her skills as a performer. From the bubbly pop of “Too Many Sneakers” to the “Song for a Rose” lament, we discover that regardless of mood, Martin has a way with a hook, casting her spell with wit and passion. Having recently taken on the ambitious task of accompanying Bob Wiseman on tour throughout North America as a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, the influences are certainly apparent. But, as Martin continues to explore her own material, her unique talents become clear. – Ian Danzig


Space Woman
Life Drawing Without Instruction
Five Hole: Tales of Hockey Erotica
Disaster Fantasies



Selina Martin is a Toronto-based art pop siren. She has an unforgettable voice, a striking ear for melody, a gigantic stage presence and, on top of it all, is an incredibly high calibre songwriter. Her music is as original as it is catchy, and as playful as it is powerful. Songwriting for Selina is an exploration of the psyche. Armed with a “wholly unique writing sensibility” (View Magazine), she mines emotional depths & gathers melodic tailings and even though some of the subject matter might be dark, there’s a deftness & dexterity in her approach that gives one the distinct feeling that even though she takes her art very seriously, she’s never taking herself too seriously.

Known also as a skilled composer/arranger/producer and multi-instrumentalist, Selina has performed on and contributed to numerous recordings by her friends & peers (Veda Hille, Bob Wiseman, Justin Rutledge, N.Q. Arbuckle...). Recent works of note include producing and arranging Martin Tielli's (Rheostatics) The Ghost Of Danny Gross, Parts 1 & 2, as well as composing and performing in the theatrical and musical adaptation of the book Five Hole: Tales of Hockey Erotica by Dave Bidini (Rheostatics). Throw into the bargain that she’s a gifted actor (Martin used to be one of the 4 main members of Bald Ego Theatre, a highly acclaimed innovative & impressionistic theatre company) and you’ve got one very intriguing package.

Selina has toured across Canada, the US and Europe. Her third full length and highly acclaimed recording, "Disaster Fantasies", was skillfully produced by indie wunderkind Chris Stringer (Timber Timbre, Ohbijou, The Coast), and is her most focused album to date. It’s a fierce collection of genre-defying tunes, including “a beautiful rendition” (Geddy Lee) of The Spirit of Radio (Rush), and was released on CD and vinyl across Canada on June 29, 2010. Martin has been touring Disaster Fantasies with a 5 piece band and also has a trio version of the show. (Selina Martin Triage).

Five years have passed since the release of Life Drawing Without Instruction. Seven years melted away between Space Woman (her debut) and Life Drawing. Though she has fans requesting more tunes more often, the time Selina takes between releases is a testament to her commitment to her art. It allows her to accumulate ideas and experiences; to create something good, something truly true, and something original.

Highlights include:
• Two songs from Disaster Fantasies (Dec. 7 - The Hottest Day, June 29 – The Spirit of Radio) are heralded by the Globe and Mail as “Essential Tracks”.

• Breathe In, also from Disaster Fantasies is touted as “one of the best Canadian songs of the year” by Robert Everett-Green of The Globe & Mail

Selina’s song “20 Miles” is featured in the Canadian road film “One Week,” which debuted at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival.

Selina penned and performed the soundtrack for - and is animated along with The Five Hole Band in - the award winning short film “Five Hole” By Cam Christiansen, based on the book by Dave Bidini (Rheostatics).

“Act of God”, the new documentary by Jennifer Baichwall (Manufactured Landscapes), with film score by Fred Frith, Martin Tielli (Rheostatics), Dave Bidini, and Selina Martin opens the 2009 Hot Docs festival.

Selina shared the stage with Ani Di Franco at the Vancouver Folk Festival and received a 1500 person standing ovation.

She has shared the stage with Feist, Kathleen Edwards, The Rheostatics, Oh Susannah, Bob Wiseman, The Skydiggers, Veda Hille and many more.

Life Drawing Without Instruction was one of CBC radio 3’s top albums of 2005 and is on Gord Downie’s (The Tragically Hip) web-list of “Music You Should Hear”.