I've been asked, when am I going to write about the new Beth Orton. Now, I suppose.
It's fine. Really. Here's the thing: she is perfectly entitled to make the album she wants to make, the way she wants it to sound. She said, in an interview between live performances of songs she did on KEXP back on January 9, that she wants to pare down her sound, make it, eventually, as part of her musical evolution, "just me and my guitar." Comfort of Strangers isn't just Orton and her guitar, but it is audibly less airy and mysterious and beeping and booping and loopy and mystical and spooky and forlornly wispy than her previous albums. Think of the two versions of the title cut from the album Central Reservation, one sparse and acoustic and folk, the other textured and layered and filled to bursting with sound. To me, the first is a fine song, the second a fabulous creation.
In one of my first posts for BDRIB I wrote about the new Eno album and my response to it, wondering about what responsibility I had as a long listener to Eno in the expectations I brought to a new album. I've written that I love Beth Orton. And while there are clear differences between Eno and Orton, both in their music and in their respective importance in music history, there is one key difference in my reactions to both of their new albums: Eno left me blah because he hadn't changed his sound, Orton left me blah because she has. Which means I feel a greater responsibility to revisit Comfort of Strangers, relisten a few more times at least. If she, as an artist, makes a conscious move to a different sound then I, as a fan and advocate, need to be sure it's not just my expectations that have been disappointed when the new music leaves me underwhelmed. I need to give the music a chance to underwhelm me itself.