Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A wishbone where their backbone should have grown

Review: Comfort of Strangers by Beth Orton

I have been a big Beth Orton fan since I first knew who she was, which was on the stunning Chemical Brothers track "Where Do I Begin?" Shortly after that, her first solo album came out, called Trailer Park, and I was hooked. Her voice is soulful, fragile, and beguiling, and her first albums were termed "electronic folk," combining delicate acoustic guitars, layered melodies, and subtle electronic beats.

Most people have never heard of Beth Orton, I realize. But she deserves to be heard.
Anyway, her latest release, Comfort of Strangers, came out a few months ago, and I am just now getting around to reviewing it. Here are a few highlights:

"Worms" - With a piano line that reminds me of Aimee Mann (Magnolia era) and a melody that sounds much like a Fiona Apple song, "Worms" is brilliant and clever, starting with the line "Worms don't dance, they haven't got the balls." And anyone who refers to herself as "your apple-eating heathen, any old rib-stealing Eve" clearly knows a thing or two about songwriting.

"Heartland Truckstop" - This is a mid-tempo delight, and Beth's unique and strange voice shines through on this track.

"Rectify" - This one has a very cool rolling beat, like a train across the plains. The beat changes for the chorus, and I love the way it picks back up as though the train never stopped.

"Shopping Trolley" - This might be as close to "rock" as Beth Orton gets. It's no Slayer, but the drums have a distinctly rock feel.

"Shadow of Doubt" - Of all the tracks on the album, this one reminds me most of her earlier albums. Delicate verses, soaring chorus, and the tortured voice of love lost.

"Conceived" - Another perfect example of why I love Beth Orton. "Conceived" begins with a subtle drum line and Beth's beautiful vocals, and then it crescendos to the chorus. Plus the string instrumentation adds layers of glorious sounds.

Beth Orton's music is mellow and elegant and dreamy and exquisite, and if you have never heard her, do yourself a favor.


Post a Comment

<< Home