Friday, April 21, 2006

The comfort of strangers

One of the artist I've been following quite avidly over the last 4-5 years has been Beth Orton, her vocals are amazing, heartbreaking and trance inducing at the same time. She is also a first rate songwriter and musician. So I had quite a lot of expectation for her new album"The Comfort of Strangers", especially when her previous one, "Daybreaker" broke new grounds for me. All reviewers emphasized that this was the milestone 10th year album, and compared it with such gems as "Blood on the tracks"

At first I found it very hard to judge the album, while I've read the reviews that described it as minimalist effort, I was not really prepared to the extent of it. The album is recorded in Analog, with no more than three instruments, and with Beth playing most of them.

The first impression is that it was too folksy and too self-indulgent, if you know Beth's vocal you will appreciate how hard is it to exactly make out the words, but after several listening, the flowers blossomed so to speak. The obvious truth shone, that Beth does not need a horde of musicians and mixing to make her mark, she is an accomplished artist and she can carry a whole album with only her vocals. The album is a gem, songs such as "Worms" and "Absinthe" brought tears to my eyes with their disarmingly simple premise and their heavy subtext, the title track "Comfort of Strangers" is the most approachable track for non-Beth fanatics.

I still missed the hinge of electronica that gave Beth her "Queen of comedown" moniker, but her courage and absolute integrity in doing this album really touched me. Now I have to make do with yet another favorite Beth Orton Album.


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