Beth Orton – Daybreaker

She had risen pretty much out of nowhere over the preceding decade or so, and could now be regarded as a mature musician. For her fourth and most successful solo album, Beth Orton worked again with one of the stalwarts of what I hesitatingly call “folktronica,” Ben Watt, and also perhaps more surprisingly, Johnny Marr turned up to help out as well.

Daybreaker was released fifteen years ago this week, and opens with a sweet pop song called Paris Train, although there’s little clue in the lyrics why that might be a suitable title. When Orton is at her blandest, her songs are pleasant but distinctly unmemorable, and this is a good example of this.

Concrete Sky is the collaboration with Johnny Marr, and perhaps because of this, it does stand out somewhat, although Mount Washington, which follows, is the first track on here that really gets anywhere close to catchy. Then comes Anywhere, which was the lead single – and deservedly so – it’s probably the best track on the album.

Honestly, it might have sold well, but this isn’t a great album from this point onwards. The title track Daybreaker is pleasantly trippy and has some fun sound effects in it, but it’s not exactly exciting. Carmella and God Song are either pleasant or dull, depending on your perspective. The titles are still pretty perplexing for the most part, as well.

Some of them are witty, at least – This One’s Gonna Bruise, a collaboration with Ryan Adams, is a pleasant listen too. Orton’s haunting vocal breathlessly works its way through the notes, and the contrast with the electronic rhythm of the opening beats of Ted’s Waltz is notable too. But don’t get too excited – there’s nothing that would pass for uptempo on this half of the album.

Maybe not getting excited is exactly the point. There is a nice rhythmic quality to Ted’s Waltz, making it stand out somewhat, and while this might be a downtempo album by its very nature, it certainly isn’t boring. But hopefully it’s also OK to find it a little dull at times.

In which case, closing track Thinking About Tomorrow is entirely appropriate, as it’s forgettable on every level. It’s a shame, but there it is. Ultimately Daybreaker is far from a bad album, but it’s not even Beth Orton‘s finest hour. Get Central Reservation instead.

You should still be able to find Daybreaker at all major retailers.

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