Beth Orton Sugaring Season

Reviewed by Dom Hennequin on 11 October 2012 Tone Deaf

Rated 7.5 out of 10

Key Track: Something More Beautiful

Beth Orton has this strange ability to bypass any pre-conceived notion of where lyrics sit in an ordinary song structure. The pace at which she pulses her words out, hardly taking a break, blurs the lines between the chorus and verse; a refreshing approach to a tired formula.

Sugaring Season, her sixth studio album, showcases the folkiness she is known for in the instrumentation, but also the versatility of her voice, at times utilizing it as a fellow instrument, making lyrics sometimes completely unnecessary

She plows through opening number ‘Magpie’ like a late nineties Alanis Morisette, supported by the strings and layers of acoustic guitar. ‘Dawn Chorus’ follows on, its rhythm pitter-pattering lightly throughout, and track three ‘Candles’ sweeps the listener away with an un-resolving tension in the chords, and an unfixable lyrical complication that lasts even through to the end.

The rawness of Orton’s vocals shine through in ‘Something More Beautiful” which creates the most intimate of connections. The vocals are lonely during the verse, but the chorus is large and powerful, with strings emphasising the head of each bar. The highs of the chorus juxtaposed with the lows of the verses create a back and forth dynamic, but they work harmoniously to form the most satisfying number on the record.

And then there is ‘See Through Blue’, the most inconsequential track on this new release. It’s a happy-go-lucky chant, reminiscent of an old Irish folk tune. Complete with an almost out of tune piano and a bouncy beat, it’s a brief moment of pure lightness on an otherwise complex collection of songs.

Sugaring Season is a well crafted piece of rawness. Orton really plays to her strengths here, maintaining the style she’s always held, but showing a ineffaceable maturity.

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