Top 10 of 2006: 9. Beth Orton – The Comfort of Strangers

9. Beth Orton – The Comfort Of Strangers

I figured this album would be a loyalty purchase. I loved Beth’s 1999 album, Central Reservation, with all my heart, but only liked about 2 tracks from her follow-up, Daybreaker. I didn’t really cared to see her live anymore and barely put her records on anymore.

I’d like to say that Comfort Of Strangers blew me away, but it’s not that kind of record. Where Beth’s best work was tinged with dance rhythms and electronica, here she’s just a girl with an acoustic guitar for most part. It’s her singer-songwriter record. Acoustic guitar picked, hushed confessional lyrics, soft muted production – it’s a mellow affair.

It’s what’s so lovable about this record – it’s a sweet, intimate thing. I spent a lot of time listening to this record late at night, just softly you know? With a book or something. A cigarette. The night sky. And Beth’s voice, always great, singing fuzzy wuzzy female singer songwriter proverbs – well it just hits the right spot.

Take the winning chorus of the title track: “One love is better than not enough/I’d rather have one love than messing with the wrong stuff”. Terrible fluff and teenaged poetry, but somehow it comes across as honest and heartfelt.

Still, the album drags on a bit. And yeah, it’s samey I guess. But it’s a great part of a bigger career. All those little ballads that made up two or three songs on previous albums, well, here’s ten of them. And the album does have moments where it glides brilliantly – Concieved and Shopping Trolley amongst the best.

It’s not going to put a big spring in anyone’s step, but it’s a great midnight record. Ever so jazzy in many ways, especilly feel. And that voice just gets better with age.

Danny Yau
London
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